New Age: Part 4

New Age: Part 4

Posted on Jul 25th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
The New Age has some of its origins in organizations such as the Theosophical Society.  Besant and Leadbeater wrote the book Occult Chemistry where they claimed to have used psychic vision to discover the structure of the atom.  Also, it was the Theosophical Society that raised J. Krishnamurti as the coming messiah even though he chose not to take up this role and went his own way instead.  Theosophy was a part of the whole spiritualism movement which related to various occult groups and practitioners.  This side has been a bit lost in the lightness and fluff of the New Age, but the New Age tradition of channelled writings comes from spiritualism. 
 
All of the spirituality and religion of that time was largely in response to the industrial revolution and the rising of scientific materialism.  Mesmerism was one of those attempts to bridge the gap between spirituality and science.  This is partly why New Agers are so focused on material manifestations of spirituality such as healing and wealth, and why they’re interested in quasi-scientific theories about quantum physics and such.  New Thought ideas are getting some actual scientific backing from books written by people such as Lynne McTaggart who is a reporter on consciousness studies.
 
There is also an intriguing connection between the New Age and phenomena such as UFOs and conspiracies.  They’re two sides of the same thing.  UFOs and conspiracies, like much of New Age, is seeking rational explanations for the non-rational.

The basic connection is that there is much crossover between those interested in New Age and those interested in UFOs, conspiracy theories, and whatever else.  New Age types tend to be open-minded and curious about life in general (and some more extreme New Agers have a naive gullibility that allows them to believe in almost anything).  I mentioned that the early origins of New Age include spiritualism and Theosophy.  The occult in general is sort of the shadow of mainstream New Age, and the occult is mixed up with UFOs and conspiracy theories.  
 
I was reading a book by Vallee who is a UFO investigator and was one of the first people to make a connection between alien abductions and traditional folklore.  In the intro to one of his books, he mentioned that he had studied Teilhard de Chardin and appreciated his view.  Teilhard de Chardin is a name that comes up in both New Age and Integral discussions.  BTW there is much crossover between New Age and Integral in general to the chagrin of Ken Wilber. 
 
If you go to the alternative section of a bookstore, you’ll find books on New Age, books on such things UFOs and conspiracy theories, and books on Integralism.  Also, you’ll find books on New Thought Christianity and all other aspects of Christianity that aren’t deemed suitable for a normal Christian viewing public. 

There is another common element to all of these besides the type of person who is open-minded and curious.  Nearly all of these subjects have some connection to Jung and depth psychology.  Jung proposed the theory of archetypes that has become popular in the New Age, in certain sectors of Christianity, and in subjects such as tarot and kabbalah.  The idea of archetypes does come up in books about UFOs and the occult and Jung comes up a lot in Integral circles.  Jung was influenced by some writers of the occult, Jung wrote a book about UFOs, and Jung was a direct inspiration of Alcoholics Anonymous which was one of the earliest self-help groups.  Jung had wide interests and many New Agers share this trait.  Also, shadow work is becoming an increasingly popular topic in the New Age.  Of course, the belief in synchronicity has been a mainstay of the New Age for quite a while now.  Plus, the MBTI was based on Jung’s theory of personality, and the MBTI has become a big player in the self-help field.
  
There is another even more interesting side to all of this.  Intentional communities and Gurus are very popular amongst New Agers, but there is a dark side to this with Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and Heaven’s Gate.  Heaven’s Gate is an especially good example.  They were a UFO cult that was very New Agey in their interest in pop culture utopianism and their beliefs in alien/angels that would come to save them.  Many people who have alien abduction experiences are given messages by their captors.  They are made to feel special and that they have a mission to accomplish.  They are often told that the world is ailing or even dying, and that the aliens have come to save the planet or the aliens have come to save an elect few.  You can find similar messages in New Age channeled writings.
 
Basically, there is a very diverse connection between the New Age and various subjects that don’t seem very New Agey.  Even so, these connections go back to the beginning of the New Age.  Part of the problem here is that its nearly impossible to define what the New Age is.  It includes so much.  And if you follow the trail of connections, it can lead you in many different directions.  Its good to keep in mind that the New Age has slowly been co-opted by the mainstream (eg Oprah and Tolle, and The Secret), but the New Age originated in the unrespectable fringes of society.  Just as its useful to distinguish between New Thought and New Age, its also useful to distinguish between the early beginnnings of New Age and the contempory popularization thereof.  The New Age that is becoming popularized right now is in some ways a whole new phenomena.

This blog is posted in the God Pod.

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about 6 hours later

Cloud said

Thank you, your “New Age” entries have been very enjoyable and you hold a wealth of knowledge surrounding it.   And as you said, “Part of the problem here is that its nearly impossible to define what the New Age is.  It includes so much.”  My experience with the New Age and New Agers has been both challenging and challenged, by many people for many years.
Suffice it to say that the New Age has opened doorways to so many people in regards to spiritual unity and freedom.  It has definitely provided the opportunity for people to express their individuality within their personal beliefs and outside of the limits of dogmatic religion.  To me the New Age is a melting pot of worldwide cultures and belief systems, some ancient, some new.  And while it appears that the intention of the New Age is holistic and unified it is also, in some ways exceedingly empty and self-serving (i.e. false prophets, self-exalted gurus and self-important people charging exorbitant amounts of money for ceremony or participatory experiences).
It seems to me that Americans, in general, are at a loss when it comes to spiritual identity.  Structured, patriarchal religion no longer serves hardly anyone but on the same token, to “convert” the God to Goddess is merely a paradigmatic shift that creates a dichotomy devoid of balancing the masculine and feminine.  My personal favorite “term” for this Goddess/God is the great mystery.  It is a great mystery, regardless of attempts in naming it or owning it; no one really knows what it is.  It is not a he or she and it seems to be inclusive of all sentient and non-sentient beings.
My path for countless years has been an earth-based path, paying homage and attention to Gaia if you will.  In my own search for finding meaning and depth to my spiritual essence the Native American ways appeal to me, honoring and acknowledging the balance of Mother Earth and Father Sky, respect and awareness for all of the elements, directions, seasons, creatures, etc.  People who follow this path are often, unfortunately, accused by Native American people of being a New Ager and are accused of trying to steal their traditions.  This thinking on their part has allowed me to delve more deeply into the roots of these earth-based ways and to know, beyond the shadow of a doubt that they have been celebrated by countless peoples the world over since the beginning of time, to include medicine wheels, sweat lodge ceremony, various ceremonial dances, smoking the pipe and vision quest.  No one owns these traditions, these beliefs, these ways and for any one peoples to think they do is arrogant and selfish.
Another meaningful paradigmatic structure for me, and one that has been termed as New Age, are the works of Carlos Castaneda.  The man was a genius, how could he not be, having concocted an entire 8 volume story including all of its characters as a means to cut through the bullshit and connect to the simple, energetic beauty that surrounds us all.  Much of his work pulls from Buddhist and Hindu philosophies as well as early writings from mid-19th century Mexico.  Beyond the sometimes tedious words of his stories lies the opportunity to connect to the magic of life with awareness, personal power, integrity, efficiency and respect.
A blog post of mine from over a year ago included:  “We perceive that we have outgrown patterns and behaviors when all that has really changed is our capacity to utilize those patterns and behaviors in different paradigms, with more awareness and with more fervent justification.”
Let’s hope that the New Age is really what it claims to be:  A New Age.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 9 hours later

Marmalade said

Thanks for your comments, Cloud!  I always appreciate it when someone gives a thorough and thoughtful response.

I agree that New Age is a melting pot, and those with distinct traditions (whether Catholic or Native American) don’t like that.  New Age is truly the religion of the US.  The US is a melting pot of a country.  And, even though conservatives don’t like to admit it, there was great religious diversity and disagreement amongst the early settlers and founding fathers… not to mention the diversity of the native religions that were already here.

I don’t know if the New Age is really what it claims to be.  It is definitely something “New”.  However, as it becomes mainstream it will become increasingly codified and commodified until it becomes a new religion, but I don’t know if we’ll see a unified New Age religion in our lifetime.  I think Integral is doing its best to create a unified theology which is one of the first steps in the process.

Its kind of fun living in a time when a new major world religion is forming.  Its been something like 1400 years since the last major world religion formed (ie Islam).

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