What is the New Age?
Some say the New Age arose as a marketing category in the 1980s, with New Age ideas bubbling up in the ’60s and ’70s.
Scholars point out that the media also uses the term, along with individual seekers and noncommercial organizations.
Whatever its origins, the New Age refers to almost anything relating to contemporary spiritual discourse and practice—at least, those not getting an official stamp of approval from organized religion.
New Age beliefs either sell or sink into oblivion. Unlike churches, the call for cash usually isn’t couched in soft, pious sounding language.
New Age books, music, lectures, workshops, podcasts, videos and websites focus on humanity’s development, usually with goals like self-actualization, natural healing, eco-friendly living, and global transformation.
At the outset of the 20th-century, the American psychologist and philosopher William James outlined in his The Varieties of Religious Experience several spiritual trends remarkably similar to today’s concept of the New Age:
…for the sake of having a brief designation, I will give [it] the title of the ‘Mind-Cure movement.’ There are various sects of this ‘New Thought,’ to use another of the names by which it calls itself.¹
From the 1980s some Christian fundamentalists denounced the New Age as the workings of Satan.
Figures like C. G. Jung, Rudolf Steiner and Fritjof Capra were caricatured as Satanic hostiles to apparently true fundamentalist renderings of the Christian faith. Funny thing about rigid, narrow-minded fundamentalists is that most seem unaware that they are interpreting.
Recently, fundamentalist attacks have shifted from targeting perceived demonic threats to countering secular and scientific worldviews. Believers in evolution sans God are the new devils in the flesh to be opposed by fundamentalists believing they have a privileged interpretation of scripture.
This shift is probably due to advances in sequencing genomes. The possibilities of this technology are staggering, and new developments are often frightening to those deeply entrenched in centuries of cultural bias.
To me, a lot of the debate I see between science and religion seems about as informed as a Mutt and Jeff comic. Both camps – science and religion – can be extremists and dialog between them often misses the mark.
The solution, I think, is to avoid either/or situations and look at science, religion and the New Age in terms of what helps us and what doesn’t.
¹ William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Penguin, 1985 , p. 94.
How to stop spending so much time in your own head – and why you should(businessinsider.com)