New Age

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New Age can be expressed simply as: a new era, a vision of a new, better future, the beginning of a new Astrological Age, or even the anticipation of a new world replacing the old-- a new order of experience. Such a New Age results from the interaction of pre-existing older ideologies with newer, mystical, and experiential phenomena. Being a dynamic container by nature, New Age is constantly redefining itself. To understand New Age one must examine its diverse attributes, old and new. These wide-ranging parts, simultaneously in flux, synergistically enable the whole-- the New Age movement. Although no rigid boundaries actually exist, New Age perspectives on history, philosophy, religion, spirituality, lifestyle, and music may help those who wish to explore the subject further.

History

Originally a disorganized coalition, the New Age movement began as an offshoot of the 1960's pop culture anti-war movement "happening" in North America and Europe. New Age challenged the widely accepted norms and beliefs of western society by offering new interpretations of science, written history, and the religion of the Judeo-Christian establishment. They were the younger generation later known as the baby boomers who were learning and experimenting.

(excerpt used with special permission of the author Michael Rogge) The Roots of the New Age Movement

"What became known as the New Age movement injected new life into almost forgotten traditions at a time that Christian faith had lost its meaning for the younger generation. New Age's greatest growth has been in the United States. This is not surprising, as it was based on already existent, but dormant, religious/philosophical movements which had come to a head in the nineteenth century. As we have seen Oriental religion and the European occult traditions had made a great impact on the intellectual elite of America in the nineteenth century . The second president John Adams(1767-1848) is known for his fascination with Oriental thought. He was a voracious reader of the translations of Eastern religious works.

The leaders who stood at the cradle of the birth of the nation were influenced by Masonic, Spiritualistic, and Rosicrucian thought. "[A] New Order of the World" proclaims the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States. Eight signatories of the Declaration of Independence were Freemasons, amongst whom Benjamin Franklin (see image) and George Washington, as were sixteen subsequent presidents."

The belief, however, that the New Age movement has roots in, or is an extension of, Freemasonry, is faulty. All Freemasons are directed to respect the principles of logic and reason, to work toward truth through the use of science, and to respect knowledge so understood.

There is also a fine, but important, distinction between alchemical modes of thought, such as those supposedly used by the (fictional) Rosicrucians, which value received knowledge as illuminated by the light of reason, and New Age thought, which values received knowledge as evaluated by intuition.

(excerpt continued) "Prominent American writers, who became known as the Transcendentalists, were deeply influenced by Eastern thought. Ralph Waldo Emerson(1803-1882) was one of the great admirers of Oriental religious classics, notably the Bhagavad Gita. His secretary, Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden, a source of inspiration for hippies a century later.

New Age was primarily a movement amongst the younger generation in the late sixties that demanded to play a greater part in all aspects of society, and therefore in a very real sense was separated from the historical events listed above. Through the use of mind-expanding drugs, a greater reality was being unfolded to them that called for other explanations than traditional religion could give. Its concepts of God and Love were too narrow to accommodate the overwhelming experiences they had on their trips. Transcendence, self-realisation, yoga, meditation, all part of existing traditions, were being rediscovered and practised.

Originally the New Age had been given the name: the Age of Aquarius to signify the new era of spiritual enfoldment as foretold in astrology. In the early seventies, when the movement was well on its way, the name New Age was adopted. Of course, the term had actually been used for many years prior to this. Gurdjieff follower A.R.Orage had already founded a magazine, partly funded by George Bernard Shaw, by the name of New Age in 1906.

As might be expected, the New Age unleashed counter-forces from the side of fundamentalist Christian denominations. Especially after Marilyn Furguson wrote in her book The Aquarian Conspiracy that the fraternity dedicated to this philosophy constituted a worldwide network. Dedicated persons would recognize each other in a few minutes without secret signs, but merely by a short exchange of ideas. This was seen as a sort of Satanic conspiracy. Especially people who followed so-called occult practices came under suspicion. The orthodox Christian establishment found allies in the equally dogmatic Sceptics and members of the Committee for the Scientific Investication of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) in their efforts to suppress and misrepresent New Age and occultism in the media.

New Age has not traveled to the end of the road yet. It is reaching a stage of maturity in which chaff is being separated from the wheat. Yet, it still comprises a broad spectrum of activities from the commercial rip-offs to those motivated by an unselfish dedication to serve mankind spiritually. Many do not wish to be associated with the name because it reminds them of the turbulence associated with the uprising of the younger generation in the late sixties and the lamentable drug excrescences.

If the movement will sustain its original purity and raise high the spirit of new generations, it will gain an immense vista of life and a purpose to live for.

Philosophy

New Age beliefs may emphasize oral tradition and revealed truth over existing views of established historians and scientists. Any new invention or philosophy that conflicts with established tradition has its skeptics. Some New Age proponents note these skeptical reactions to their worldview, and point to the religious persecution suffered by scientists like Hypatia of Alexandria(invented the astrolabe, headed the Neo-Platonist School, and murdered by Christians 415 AD), Galileo, and Martine de Bertereau du Chatlet(French minerologist accused of witchcraft and executed 1642 AD). Yet many others welcome skepticism as just another point of view.

New Age adherents may believe truth instead comes from a mystical energy shared by all forms of matter rather than derived solely from logic. This mystical idea compares with the religious precepts of Holy Spirit, grace, Providence, and karma. People who form the New Age movement often use and even redefine some of the vocabulary borrowed from various belief systems, which can cause some confusion for non-adherents as well as increase opposition from skeptics and traditional religions.

Metaphysics may have parallels to New Age according to Diane Brandon, author of Invisible Blueprints: Insights of an Energy Reader. From her article [EXPERIENTIAL SPIRITUALITY AND CONTEMPORARY GNOSIS] she mentions: "As those of us hard-core metaphysical types know, you can't really say that there is any one set of beliefs that all "New Agers" are into. (As a matter of fact, the term "New Age" or "New Ager" is somewhat distasteful to many into metaphysics.) The New Age "movement" is a widely diversified conglomerate of subsets of ideas and explorations - so truly diversified that one could hardly ascribe the term "movement" to it, as this term connotes a cohesive, unified organization. One person into crystals and spirit guides, for example, may not be into UFO abduction phenomena. And those into paganism or magick may not necessarily break bread together well with those into angels or Christed energy.

So, what is it that links those of us into metaphysics and the New Age together? What are the common threads?

First of all, let's look at the terms themselves, so that we may gain some insight into what we are identifying ourselves with.

"Metaphysics" is a term derived from the Greek: "meta" is a prefix meaning beyond or greater than and "physics" refers to that which is physical (or at least what we as a culture understand at the present time to be our physical reality). Thus, we can thank Greek for our term metaphysics - the realm of that which transcends physical reality. ...

On the face of it, it might appear that metaphysics and the New Age might not have anything intrinsically in common. However, one common link would appear to be that of spirituality. For example, little would seem to light up the eyes of those into metaphysics more than a discussion of those things spiritual. What transcends our so-called physical reality more than spirit?

With regard to the New Age, one hallmark of the transition from the Piscean to the Aquarian Age is the anticipated shift in consciousness, whether it is defined as a vibrational frequency shift precipitated by our approach to and entrance into the Photon Belt or is defined as an awakening and concurrent "raising of awareness" brought about by astrological influences and energies. Consciousness is also the stuff that dreams - and matters spiritual - are made of.

Thus, one link between metaphysics and the New Age "movement" would appear to be spirituality and consciousness - those topics deemed insubstantial and ephemeral, at least to the minds of those more pragmatic, empirical, and skeptical among us." (used with special permission by the author, Diane Brandon)


Religion

Unlike many traditional religions, New Age is not a belief system per se, but instead an aggregate of beliefs and practices (syncreticism), some of which come from established myths and religions.(see Egyptian Mythology and Hinduism) Inside this general catch-all category, called New Age, form groups with established belief systems resembling religions and fixed belief systems. Examples of fixed belief systems are clubs, fraternal organizations such as the Masons, or any group that shares similar beliefs held in common.

The New Age movement believes that it does not contradict these traditional belief systems, but rather fulfills the ultimate truths contained within them, and separates these truths from false tradition and dogma. On the other hand, adherents of other religions often claim that the New Age movement has, at best, a shallow understanding of these religious concepts, and that New Age attempts at religious syncreticism are vague and contradictory.

Spirituality

Many individuals are responsible for the recent popularity of New Age spirituality, especially in the United States. James Redfield wrote The Celestine Prophecy in 1993, and many have claimed that this book changed their lives by providing an open ended system of philosophy on human thought. Marianne Williamson updated A Course in Miracles when she penned her work A Return to Love.

The gnostic approach of experiential insight and revelation of truth may be closer to the New Age methodology of prayers and spirituality. Due to the personal individualist nature of revealed truth, New-Agers often walk down the old road of gnosis, paved with modernized eclectic stone. Once again Diane Brandon writes in [EXPERIENTIAL SPIRITUALITY AND CONTEMPORARY GNOSIS]: "And this emphasis on spirituality and consciousness reflects an acknowledgment that we are, in essence, spiritual beings - and beings of pure energy, as consciousness is a form of energy - even though we are "in the body." As Wayne Dyer says, "We are spiritual beings having a human experience." Or, as Deepak Chopra says, our bodies are contained within our consciousness, not our consciousness contained within our bodies.

Many people have attempted to compare traditional religion and metaphysics, often pitting one against the other, as if the two of them were mutually exclusive or antithetical. Interestingly, however, religion based on theism is, by definition, a part of metaphysics, as any concept of a deity in traditional Western religion is outside the purview of our three-dimensional reality.

Which leads us to another interesting hallmark of contemporary metaphysics and the "New Age:" the spirituality is experiential.

And some of the causative factors involved with this experiencing of spirituality are somewhat understandable.

Many have theorized that the current interest in spirituality and metaphysics may in part be viewed as a reaction against the Age of Reason and the perceived pursuant overemphasis on the strictly material and empirical - that there is a longing for the transcendently spiritual, instead of feeling bogged down in a strict immersion in the physical. I. e., after a couple of centuries of emphasis on the empirically provable and concrete, there is a longing for the spiritual as an antidote. ... Small wonder, then, that New Agers and those into metaphysics want to experience their spirituality, so that they may feel it, rather than simply think it, and that they want to have some control over their practice or manifestation of it, rather than strictly going through an external intermediary. This shift to a feeling of control over one's expression of spirituality also reflects the trend towards personal responsibility, as well as personal empowerment." (used with special permission by the author, Diane Brandon)


New Age and Medicine

A large number of individuals have adopted alternative methods of medicine that incorporate New Age beliefs. Some of the techniques in this list include herbal medicine, acupuncture, iridology, and the use of crystals in healing therapy. Adoptees of these techniques find them helpful in treating illness. Their personal involvement in their own treatment increases, rather than merely acting as a passive spectator. Some rely on New Age treatments exclusively, while others use them in combination with conventional medicine. For example, there is one noteworthy trial study in San Francisco on breast cancer in women. The Tibetan doctor in charge prescribed Tibetan herbs for treatments, yoga, special diets, and prayer. Conventional medicine has recognised that a patient's state of mind is crucial in determining the outcome towards many diseases, and uses herbal medicine as a guide to help locate new scientficially-tested drugs.

New Age medicine's popularity and criticism of conventional medicine has encouraged many medical practitioners to pay closer attention to the entire patient's needs rather than just her specific disease. Such approaches, termed "holistic medicine", are now becoming more popular.

Music

A large percentage of New Age music is instrumental, and electronic, although vocal arrangements are also common. Enya, who won a grammy for her new age music, sings in Latin or other languages on many pieces. Medwyn Goodall, not as widely known, relies mainly on electronic keyboarding effects, and includes acoustic guitar as well. To understand this musical category may help shed light on the NA perspective.

Music labeled New Age often has a vision of a better future, expresses an appreciation of goodness and beauty, even an anticipation, relevant to any event. The genius of New Age composition comes from its amateur aspect. Nearly anyone who plays a musical instrument can produce an inspired piece, and convey their feelings easily within this genre. Talent is in the ear of the listener, not in numbers-- either in amount of radio airplay, or in CD's sold. Rarely does New Age music find a problem with this world or its inhabitants, yet it offers a peaceful solution for a better world, which basicly defines what New Age means. Often the music is celestial, when the title names stars or deep space explorations. Ennio Morricone wrote the entire score for the movie Mission to Mars, and while the credits flash we hear All the Friends-- New Age orchestral style.

We find a syncretic musical mixture of themes, not revisionist, in the music of New Age. All genres of music considered as art are similar in this respect. The titles of New Age music are often provocative, because the words used by the artists attempt to convey their version of truth, in a few short words. On listening to the music, one may understand the idea within the title. Examples of titles: "bond of union", "sweet wilderness", "shepherd moons", "animus anima", and so on.

New Age Lifestyle A to Z

New Age lifestyles can be observed anywhere that people meet, congregate, and visit. To an outside observer, the eventful outcome of this meeting differs from other similar meetings she may have seen before, because something changes. Something clicks in people's behavior making them exchange information with everyone getting more out of the event than was individually put into it. This generally happens commonly in New Age lifestyles. Also, people may not even believe they are New-Agers, though they fit the general pattern.

  • A typical conversation may begin in groups or in pairs, where the subject involves insights, deeply held truths, or even revelations, from a known or unknown origin. The result of this interaction may bond the people involved who share similar visions or outlooks. Feelings of deja vu may occur, with people feeling somehow, mysteriously, they have met before or known each other from a distant time in history.
  • Shopping at a store dealing in herbal supplements, two people meet and sense there may be a hidden meaning, or reason why they just happened to be purchasing ginseng tea at that particular moment, in that particular place, at the same time. Rather than overlooking the event, tucking it away as a mere coincidence, they talk, more often about themselves to each other, and interact, a key component of this lifestyle.

A partial list of New Age lifestyles or topics:

  • External Links to topical content from this article

James Redfield Marianne Williamson A Course in Miracles
Larry Dossey, M.D. New Age Music
Enya Medwyn Goodall
Roots of New Age Movement Nag Hammadi Library