John Naisbitt says “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.”
This is the reality of the world today, the people are seeking for the spiritual experience and they believe that the new age movement can offer them the same. What is the New Age Movement?
It is movement which 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. It is heterogeneous movement of individuals who are willing to graft some new age beliefs onto their formal religion that they follow. Since they have no formal text and hierarchy the writers who bring forth the liberated ideas become the center of organization.
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 believes in a non-traditional concept of the nature of God which is 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.
History of the New Age movement:
Historically the New Age teachings became popular during the 1970’s as a reaction against dogmatic Christianity and Hinduism for they failed to give an ethical and spiritual guidelines 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.
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
- 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 worldgovernment, 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. (Source: http://www.religioustolerance.org/newage.htm)
These are things spoken and known about the new age, it is also true that we cannot but live with this reality as we live our life today. However, do we need to agree with it fully or not dependence on what each one believes. I from my believe feel that they really lack some solid foundations in what they speak and do. It is commonly said if we don’t stand for something we might fall for everything. A move to accept the good in every other religion to make it a common flat form can also come from a fear to face the evil which is there in every system.