When people think of the phrase New Age, they often refer back to the advent of the New Age movement. It started in the 1970s and expanded in the 1980s within the occult and metaphysical religious communities, and later spread to popular culture. It is a time of widespread change, in reaction to the geopolitical challenges that brought into the spotlight the inadequacies of the existing spiritual beliefs that until that time was seen as the bedrock that anchors people in the face of sweeping changes.
The New Age Movement has been defined by many groups with diverse opinions. Some see it as an attempt at unifying all religions under one banner while others view it as nothing more than a marketing ploy for those who want to sell books or get rich off of other peoples' misery. However, what most agree on is that it represents a kind of "rebirth" of spirituality. In fact, it is commonly said that the New Age Movement is about bringing together old wisdom with modern science. This can be interpreted as the merging of two seemingly disparate worlds - the ancient world of religion and spirituality, and the modern world of science.
It is important to examine a few of the key ideas behind the New Age Movement and its spirit is transforming in respect to the changes that are happening today. The next section will explore these ideas.
New Age Ideas: A Brief History
The New Age Movement is based on several core concepts. These include the idea that humans have a soul and that we live in three dimensions (physical, mental, and emotional). It holds that there is a connection between our physical body and our mind, which is known as the biofield. Also, there is a belief that we must learn to harmonize our thoughts, emotions, and actions in order to achieve balance and harmony in life. Finally, the New Age Movement believes that we can use our intuition to connect with nature, the universe and the divine.
There are many ways to look at the New Age Movement. One way is to consider it as a reflection of how humans evolve through the crucible of material corruption through questioning the establishments made to support them. Another way is to understand it as a humanistic response to the changing times and the need for spiritual renewal. Yet another perspective is to see it as a manifestation of the global awakening of consciousness.
In addition to these perspectives, there are some common threads among the various schools of thought that make up the New Age Movement. They include the following:
- A belief in reincarnation and karma.
- An emphasis on personal growth and self-development.
- A focus on natural healing methods such as meditation, yoga, and energy work.
- A focus on understanding and working with the subconscious.
- An interest in connecting with nature, the universe, and the Divine.
- An interest and acceptance of alternative health practices like homeopathy.
It's clear that these concepts are alive and well in today's society. There are modalities that focus on human's innate abilities to heal, evolve, and discover the universe beyond the scientific lens. There are also modalities that teach us how to develop ourselves, how to become more aware of our own inner workings, and how to better communicate with others.
These modalities are not mutually exclusive. Many people practice both traditional medical care and complementary modalities. For example, they may take herbs and supplements, do massage therapy, acupuncture, Reiki, and/or meditation.
How is New Age Philosophy Changing?
As mentioned above, the New Age Movement is alive and well today. However, it is interesting to note that over the past few decades, the movement has evolved into something quite different from what it was originally intended to be. Next, I will discuss some of the major changes that have occurred within the New Age Movement.
One of the first substantial changes came when the New Age Movement became extremely popular in the 1970s. At that time, the movement began to attract a lot of attention from the mainstream media. As a result, many people started to believe that the New Age Movement was going to replace Christianity and Islam as the dominant religion around the globe. Although this did happen, it did not last long.
In the decades afterwards, the Movement adapted to an increasingly unified world where social norms, language, and other elements of daily life become more homogenized as time goes on. This shift away from diversity has had a profound impact on the Movement. Today, the majority of the New Agers who identify themselves as "New Age" practitioners no longer adhere to any religious or philosophical beliefs. Instead, they embrace a variety of philosophies ranging from Humanism to Pantheism.
Another change that took place during this period was the emergence of the New Age Movement as a commercial enterprise. The New Age Movement has always been about spirituality, but it wasn't until the 1980s that it became a multi-billion dollar industry.
One only has to look online to find a plethora of goods and services reflecting natural remedies, from herbal supplements and essential oils to energy healing like Reiki. People no longer consider these things as fringe oddities, but as part of daily life. Traditional medicine is now combined with western medicine to address improvement on overall wellness and diagnosing and treating disease. No one blinks an eye when people see their primary care physicians to get referrals for acupuncture or Reiki sessions. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, spending on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) increased from $25 billion in 1999 to $45 billion in 2006. This represents a five-fold increase in just 10 years!
Psychic abilities are now used every day to address any life situation, such as relationship problems and career/business questions. Intuition, which used to be categorized as heretical and strange, is now seen as an essential part of modern living. Talented psychics earn good income from people who accept the existence of their new age spiritual practices and gifts and rely on advisors for answers.
The list of products and services available through the New Age Movement is endless. One can purchase everything from crystal balls to aromatherapy candles. There are even websites offering free psychic readings!
What is the Future of the New Age Movement?
It's hard to say what the future holds for the New Age Movement. Many people think that the movement is dead because there aren't nearly as many New Agers out there as there were back in the 1990s. However, it seems as if the New Age Movement has found its niche in society. For example, although the number of "New Agers" has declined significantly since the early 2000s, alternative health has grown tremendously.
Because of its adoption in modern culture, the New Age Movement is slowly changing along with the technological and societal changes, like a river winding its way into the ocean. For instance, machines created now use energies that spiritual healers use to address everything from emotional imbalance to physical ailments.
As humanity becomes more technologically advanced, the spiritual center of people is put under a new focus. It is difficult to keep track of the changes humans undergo when the invention of smarter, more sophisticated machines are developed and released for daily consumption. People continue to believe in spirituality, but often question how their belief in their higher power can compete with the increasing complexities of society resulting from the need for expediency.
Time is now a precious commodity. With New Age Spirituality beliefs, time is needed to practice meditation, to explore the depths of the human experience. However, time has somehow become scarce, even in this age of speed and efficiency. The New Age Movement was created to slow down this dash to doing more things, so that one can reaffirm that there are things in existence that defy science and are just as real as the technologies that exist today.
The basic tenets of the New Age Movement are just as relevant now as they were decades ago. It is important to have the space to examine the differences between making changes because one “could,” as compared to making changes because one “should.” Questioning beliefs can strengthen faith in religious tenets by purifying it from the dross of blind obedience by examining it through the lens of reality. One can begin to separate dogma from beliefs that are relevant to today's morality.
For instance, how does one judge the rightness of going to war against one's neighbor? How does one determine whether the thought behind any enterprise is just or a reflection of greed? Is it possible to create artificial life without endangering beings that are born, not made? One can say that the complexities of today's world necessitate questioning by going back to the roots of spiritual beliefs, to anchor humanity from unchecked change.
As time goes on, there will be a widening gap between those who march forward to the beat of progressive materialism and spiritual purity. Where humankind goes from there is anyone's guess, but the spirit of the New Age Movement will anchor people in the face of uncertainty created by the relentless mechanism of change.