New age Essay

            How did the New Age religion undergo transformations?  The term new age is used to show the recent and the 21st century movements. This movement is totally different from other types of religions, in that there are no holy text, membership, formal clergy and other doctrines that are found in other religions. It is a sort of movement with many believers who have a number of practices and beliefs that they share. In this paper I will basically focus on historical events of the religion, doctrines and practices, discuss on what makes this religion differ from others. I will also define terms such as sacred time, space and group actions as well as some other related sociological issues like prejudice that are associated with this new age movement.

            The new age movement originated from some practices that were associated with spiritualism or movement that originated from the United States of America and remained in existence from 1840s up to the 1920s. It was a movement with not less than eight million believers as well as practitioners. This spiritualism held the belief that the spirits of those who died in the past can be reached through mediums. They were believed to have occupied a better place than where human beings are and for that reason, they took a better position to give people the guidance that they deserved as far as spiritual and worldly issues were concerned.

            This movement comprised of all sorts of people and for this reason it had a homogenous outlook. This movement established it self properly in the 1970s, it became very popular. It came to be where Christianity which was referred to as secular humanism failed to offer spiritual and ethical guidance and counseling to those who badly needed it. It first appeared in England sometimes back in 1960s. It started by formation of small groups like Findhorn community and Wrekin trust. Then very quickly it spiraled into an international movement, which was both a religious as well as social movement. This movement contradicted the teachings of Christianity and as such it heavily impacted on the western culture. [1]

            The teachings of the new age or what is sometimes referred to as old occult were extended to modern times both in America and Europe by Emanuel Swedenborg who lived between 1688 up to 1772. In 1860s the eastern mysticism was reawakened by challenging and questioning their usefulness. Traditions like Zen, Beatles, and transcendentalism emerged and became very popular. This movement is comprised of many groups such as clubs, lodges, religion based organizations, trusts, etc whose main goal was to pave way for the Age of Aquarius. But it is in 1960s, the new interest in these spiritual concerns emerged through the new age movement has heavily borrowed ideas and practices from spiritual concepts from the eastern regions as well as form the European occult. These eastern practices and concepts that were borrowed are things like Buddhism, Zen, Taoism as well as Hinduism. From the occult principles especially from freemasonry, paganism, astrology and other practices were borrowed.

            However, though these practitioners and believers come from all over the world and the fact that they have different backgrounds, they are at least united by the belief that they are the only one in the whole universe. This is what is called monism. They hold that what is true in whole is also true in parts or that the component of this one (monism) is as holy as the whole. This is called pantheism and it also holds that what is true in parts is true in whole. New age believers also adhere to the philosophy that holds that not only human beings that share divine consciousness but also unliving things or inanimate objects also have a take in this divine consciousness then they showed be respected and treated like humans. This belief is what is referred to as animism. The members of this religion are also held together by their beliefs in relativism or the belief that truth is not everywhere the same but depends on the circumstance, place and the perceiver. What is cherished in one community might be a no, no thing in another community.

            They also unanimously believe in reincarnation, divination and the concept of Gaia. The new age movement is substantially different from Christianity and Islam, which have a central point of authority while the new age is characterized by absence of centralization. People are not organized into one big group. It is their belief in being sincere and always doing good etc that hold these people together.[2] These new age practitioners and believers hold the belief that all things in the world both inanimate and animate are spiritually interconnected by a divine energy that is referred as God. They belief that ancestral spirits, angels, ghosts, souls, UFOs aliens do exist and that people can be guided by them if only they would open up their hearts to them. They see them as an intermediary between God and people.

            They believe that human mind is a complex whole that has deep levels of spirit and thoughts that if applied well it can even alter the physical reality. They argue that this would only be possible if the law of nature such as the cause and effect or that of physics is applied and for this reason maintain that human beings are capable of making their own realities. They hold the belief that each and every human being has a purpose and that is why he/she was brought on this earth and that people must try to understand their physical surrounding as there are a lot of things that they need to know but above all, to learn about ‘love’. Love is believed to unite all these followers irrespective of their backgrounds or localities.

            Another belief of the new age believers is that even after death, life continues. They do not belief that life comes to an end after one dies. They argue that life is only one it is only that it assumes different forms. Life after death is geared towards educating people on the most disputed things like hell and the existence of Satan. Then after you are through with these lessons; or what they term as reincarnation mechanism, you are given another opportunity to live but not in the form you had before. Somehow this can be called the immigration of souls. That is, a person who died long ago may come to exist again not as a person but as an animal. [3]

            These believers question the usefulness and the integrity of natural science in that it sidelines topics such as parapsychology, holistic medicine and meditating as a method of acquiring knowledge. To them no one learns through thinking or skepticism but through intuition that is an inborn knowledge that is beyond comprehension. They also hold that it will come a time that there will be a new world order which will develop from the Age of Aquarius. It is a utopian thinking that a world government will come in place and will be capable of stopping al the world wars, poverty, miseries, diseases and all forms of pollution. These people believe that one can become God for the age of Christianity – Islam dogmatism is already gone, the age of Aries is gone, that of rationalism, materialism is also gone for we are now in the period of pure spiritualism that is far away form that of Judaism. [4]Now it is a time of a new start when intuition is the working principle. They argue that all those people who are in the age of pure spiritualism are already God it is only that they don’t realize it. You only have to live like him, possess a consciousness like that of Him through intuition as opposed to reasoning. This in short is what is called pantheism. They believe that this new age period will bring peace, love, acceptance as well as deeper insights into the worldly myths.[5]These people have different practices that make this religion a different entity from others. They teach people practices that are designed to prepare individuals for a new phase of spiritualism that is yet to come. One of these teachings is astrology. They use the position of the planet, moon and sun at the period of when one is born to explain the behavioral traits, the meaning of life and the final destiny. This is a belief that was borrowed from western occult that man and the universe have some kind of relation that is facilitated by some unseen forces. They use the astrologers and horoscopes to get an insight into the group of stars and their patterns to foretell what the future of a particular person holds.

            These people also believe in channeling that is a situation in which hosts inform of a human beings gain access to the consciousness of an altered body thus giving way to spirit to take over in advising and guarding these believers. Channeling originated from occult practices of spiritism. Their message is that all is God and if they are part of that all, then using this argument they are God. If God is capable of altering the reality and they themselves are part of God then, they can alter the reality to suit their needs. This is a very unique teaching that is not similar to those of other religions.

            There is also the practice of psychics. That is ability to communicate with spirits and to break the complexity of human beings. The origin of this is from seers, occult practices and pagan soothsayers.[6] There is also this phenomenon of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and the extraterrestrials. Many people have come to believe in them unlike in the past times when only about 3% trusted them. Today the figure has risen to about 75-85%. The belief now is that UFOs come to inform us of a new frontier that awaits us as opposed to the past belief that they are enemies. These practices make this a very unique field of religion.

            Sacred time is a time that you stop doing your daily routine and show some respect to a particular day that commemorates a significant happening in history for example, celebrating the day of independence or in Christianity, the birth of Jesus Christ. The New ages do not have a particular time that they celebrate but they all look forward to the day that the new age will begin. Their sacred place is Nirvana, a place where there will be no rebirth but a place of tranquility.[7]

            The new age movement has undergone some transformations since it started in America. They have led others in counteracting the biasness and prejudices that are tenaciously held by their peers. They have made a very significant reform in the American continent and that is, instilling in people a new perspective in the way they look at instructions and curriculums. This was geared towards challenging the socially held stereotypes and other forms of discrimination. This new age movement came to be as a result of chains of transformations. The movement somehow altered and conquered the western nations both intellectually and in terms of culture sociological perspectives like cultural ideologies and spirituality. Today the new age movement of America is a synthesis of multi-cultural, religious, western metaphysics and mystical philosophies.

            It is also inclusive of western Taoism, occultism, and Buddhism. In fact, today the doctrine of reality as one is well propagated in America and is being taught in the universities especially after the theory of relativity by Einstein. The new age movement has also undergone some modification in terms of consciousness. In the past they believed in divine consciousness but of late they emphasize on self-actualization. The movement has also led to the shift form the reliability of science and technology to the alternative medicines. This was as a result of the failure of science and technology in stopping the threat of Aids, side effects produced by drugs such as antibiotics and sedatives. Science and technology was also blamed for the mayhem that was caused by the Vietnam War today they advocate for peace instead of war. For this reason and others many Americans are turning to the oriental philosophies, therapeutic and occult systems. These alternative medicines have fully established themselves in the market. Today there are over hundred and eight different kinds of these medicines.

            Unlike in the past there were no organized networks of groups. People were only brought together by their beliefs but today there are about six million new age websites that link up various groups, clubs and foundations together all with a motive of ushering the aquariun age in a style.[8] The new age movement has significantly reduced many of the social prejudices that are firmly held. In the past, people believed that international crisis could only be solved through war but of late this is not so. In fact these people strongly advocate for the principle of pacifism. This is principle that war should be used as the last resort after all other methods have failed. This started after people witnessed the havoc that was wreaked by the Vietnam War in 1960s. Sociologists have come up with solutions to the prejudices that the new age movement is facing. They have come up with a theory of self-esteem. This holds that people lack self esteem if they are not properly educated. Another solution is to bring people from different parts of the world.  When this is done they learn to view things from different perspectives apart from theirs.

            In conclusion, we can say the new movement has undergone a number of significant changes, some positive while others are negative. The contemporary new age movement is combination of many western cults such as occultism, spiritism and others. So, this movement is substantially different from that of the past times. People have come to view things in a new perspective by laying down their bias and prejudiced perceptions.

References:

Forbes, B. Et al. Religion and Popular Culture in America. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2005; 152.

Gouder A. New Age. December 2003. Retrieved on 7th February 2008

            http://freemasonrywatch.org/na-malta.html

Jenkins, P. Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American

            History. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 2001; 48-76

Kumar G.  The New Age Movement. July 2003. Retrieved on 7th February 2008.             http://www.pioneerthinking.com/gk-newage.html

New Age Movement. Retrieved on 7th February 2008.             http://www.cs.cornell.edu/home/kreitz/christian/cults/9.newage.pdf

Robinson B.A. New Age Spirituality. 2006: Accessed on 07/02/2008.             http://www.religioustolerance.org/newage.htm

[1] Forbes, B. Et al. Religion and Popular Culture in America. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University                 of California Press. 2005

[2] Gouder A. New Age. December 2003
[3] Robinson B.A. New Age Spirituality. 2006
[4] Kumar G.  The New Age Movement. July 2003.
[5] New Age Movement. Retrieved on 7th February 2008
[6] Ibid.
[7] Jenkins, P. Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American

                History. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 2001.

[8] Kumar G.  The New Age Movement. July 2003.