Jim 2010-07-24 00:42:45
New Ageism is so difficult to pin down, it seems impossible. The term “new
age” seems to mean different things to different people, which makes me
wonder if that is not the whole problem with the new age movement.
The “new age” is part religious movement and part political movement. The
only commonality of all things “new age” is the tendency to rebel against
the traditional mainstream. While I would agree that there are faults to the
traditional mainstream point of view, to rebel just for rebellion sake seems
unintellectual. But, many “new agers” would disagree with this broad
assessment of their movement. Which leads us back to square one: What is the
new age, and why do I find most of it objectionable? Well because it is
nearly indefinable, I will have to use the divide and conquer approach.
The best description of the “new age” I could find was from the book
Insights into the Age of Aquarius:
Belief in unverifiable and stereotyped dogmas and in the purely verbal
formulation of God will no longer be regarded as supreme importance. Instead
there will be two major emphases of religious bodies and religiously
oriented individuals: 1) Service toward the transformation of society and
the assistance of sentient beings needing help; and 2) Self Transformation.
(Insights into the Age of Aquarius, pg. 295)
By this definition, the “new age” seems like a pretty good deal. But, if you
happen to go to the new-age section of any bookstore you will find countless
volumes about self-hypnosis, psycho-cybernetics, self-image therapy, alpha
wave therapy, ESP, astrology, and many other forms of fortune telling,
psychic phenomenon, Nostradamus and other false seers, oracles, psychic
channeling, harmonic convergence, tarot cards, ghosts, UFO’s,
parapsychology, and Atlantis. So they object to beliefs in “unverifiable and
stereotyped dogmas” and offer these things as better.
Now I can assure you that most new-agers do not believe in all of this
stuff, but most of them believe in at least some of it. Practically
everything mentioned above has been proven false scientifically. My
objection to the new age tendency to accept superstition has nothing to do
with religious beliefs, it has to do with their acceptance of ideas that are
I once had a discussion of religion with someone who claimed he was a Druid.
“Oh,” I said, “So you worship oak trees?”
“No, where did you get that idea from?” he said.
“From a book I read on the subject of druidism, it was a scholarly work by
someone named Ellis.” I said, “Apparently, the ancient Druids believed that
their ancestors reincarnated into trees, the way Hindus believe that their
ancestors reincarnate into animals. The greatest people became oak trees,
thus the oak is the most highly regarded among the Druids.” He, of course,
did not believe me. He said that what the ancient Druids believed was
basically corrupted by the Romans who despised the Druids.
The bigger point of this story is that the new age religions of today have
absolutely nothing in common with religions of the past, despite adapting
names of ancient religions like Pagan, Wicca, Druid, and Gaia*. The “new
age” religions are completely modern in origin. The use of old names and
symbolisms are purely for aesthetic purposes. The whole point is to be as
non-traditional and rebellious as possible.
There are a few commonalities to these religions. For example, most are a
hodge-podge of mainstream beliefs. Particularly popular are borrowed
concepts of reincarnation and enlightenment from Buddhism, and Earth
worshipping from Native American religions. Worshipping the Earth (or
“Goddess Mother” Nature, or life itself) seems to be one of the more
distinctive traits of all new age religions.
Another commonality is that most of these new religions are not “cult” like.
My definition of a cult is a religion that claims to have all the answers.
New age religions do not fit this definition, in fact mystery is a major
element of these religions. The upshot is that new agers are not dogmatic
the way mainstream religions are. They are instead dogmatic in other ways,
especially in their political views. The downside is that all great
religions started out as cults. The skipping of this step means the new age
will never achieve greatness.
One of the most important aspects of religion is the teaching and
encouraging of morality. Most new age religions basically teach that
morality is up to the individual. It is all part of their anti-traditional
mystique. This is my only major objection to these new religions. They
borrow their doctrines heavily from Eastern and Native American religions
(as long as it is not Judeo-Christian in origin it is fine), but they ignore
the moral doctrines. All traditional religions, whether they be Eastern or
Western or even primitive in origin, have a moral code to live by. To live
morally is to sacrifice pleasures for the moment in favor of the long term
good. It is this sacrifice which keeps members for life, and makes religions
strong enough to build civilizations.
New age religions attract members because they offer an aesthetic of mystery
and rebellion. They generally attract young people who grew up in
traditional Judeo-Christian homes looking to rebel from their parents. These
new age movements give the illusion of life changing answers, but in reality
these answers do not exist outside of a moral code to base your life on. The
lack of life affirming or life changing answers leaves them shallow.
Turnover is high as a result
Since the beliefs of New-Age seems to be “Earth” based, it is not surprising
that most new agers are also environmentalists. With their general
acceptance of non-scientific ideas, they also tend to be anti-scientific and
also anti-technology. This is not a good combination.
There is nothing wrong with being pro environment, but the future of
environmental conservation is in improved technology. For example, the air
today is far less polluted, not because we have gotten rid of our cars, but
because today’s cars are much cleaner than in the past. The radical
anti-tech environmentalists, believe that new technology is the cause of
pollution, not the cure. They believe that the only way to “heal the Earth”
is to go back to a time in civilization when we lived off the land.
Another minor but constant theme of the new age is sexual freedom. New agers
claim that s** is a way to spiritual enlightenment. Whether monogamous,
promiscuous, or extra-marital, it does not matter. As one author claims,
“[S** is] the sacred manifestation of the bipolar life force through which
the joy of life can be expressed, and through which new life forms can come.
(ibid., pg. 297)” For the new-age, love does not matter, neither does
commitment. They excuse all moral breaches by “searching for enlightenment”.
The politics of the new age is strongly associated with the “radical left”,
or what Thomas Sowell calls “The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation
as a Basis for Social Policy”. It is simply the view that what the world
needs are enlightened and compassionate leaders who will inspire, by hook or
by crook, the unenlightened massed toward a better way of living, regardless
of whether we want it or not. The policies of said enlightened and
compassionate leaders are rarely questioned, even when the results are
exactly the opposite of their intent, because that would negate the
compassion and good intentions of the policies as they were created. How
could a compassionate leader ever be wrong?
The worst doctrine of all, is the new age utopian vision. The New-Agers see
themselves as spiritual and intellectual superiors who have evolved away
from destructionism. The inferior humans are those that war with the
environment and with one another. The mostly secret wish of all new agers is
that others must join them or drop dead… literally. They dream of being
the caretakers and providers of the world. They would like to see the masses
of people destroyed so that they can live “one” with nature.
And they call us destructive. Anyone who believes in the New Age is not my
intellectual superior, and they do not know the meaning of morality or
spirituality* These are not the only ones, obviously. Most do not have
historical names at all but may include words like “goddess”, “nature”,
“Earth”, “mother”, “Sun”, or “rainbow” in their titles. I should also point
out that I am not including “Goths”, which is not a religious movement (no
doctrines, philosophies or rituals) even though some Pagans, Druids and
Wiccans are also Goth, it is more of a purely aesthetic movement similar to