For the last several hundred years, spirituality was in the domain of people who branded and titled themselves as leaders of their community. Traditional and more literal interpretations were part of the way people conceptualized god. Pagan and gnostic traditions were not considered as true or authentic or at the same level as religions of the book. There was a greater sense of reverence and fear in the relationship with god…first of all it wasn’t a personal relationship, and second it was mostly conducted through authority figures.
The advent of the 1960’s saw a new phenomena, and an incredible renaissance took place. The industrial age created more interaction between people of different cultures. The discontent from the war and violence that came because of industrialization, brought about a counter cultural shift. This eventually led to what is now known as new age spirituality. Integrating gnostic and pagan ideas from around the world, new age writers have resurrected the original intent and concept of old texts, but with a new language and idiom. Open source spiritualists or new age as it is all collectively called, are people who mix it all up and pull out the best ideas from all the ideas about god and self improvement.
Most people raised within a religion who may identify as believers or atheists can feel skeptical about ‘new age’ ideas. New age spirituality is comprised of a variety of writers. For some, spiritual materialism is their bread and butter—this is how they live and some will argue it is more ethical to write and sell a few books or cards or jewellery than to sell potentially toxic things to the world. Why not sell something that gives people comfort or hope? Since intention is the fabric of the Universe wearing your lucky ring is far less harmful than going around on a toxic drug that calms you down.
Some new age writers give an extreme dose of hope. They assert that people can have anything they want. They talk about energy, intention and desire with total excitement. Such writers talk about how you can visualize health and happiness, wonderful relationships and so on. One of the most famous new age writers is a lady called Rhonda Byrne. I pick her because her style is so accessible to a variety of people around the world. She wrote a bestseller called, ‘The Secret’ in which she gave away the secret of the somewhat magical law of attraction. However, she forgot to mention many caveats whereupon the law fails. For example, she forgot to mention the law of suffering, whereupon god decides to give suffering to test His most loyal subjects. But the idea of suffering is itself a belief that is critiqued by New Age writers such as Louise Hay as a belief in suffering that creates suffering, rather than being a tenet of faith. It is a sickness, not spirituality.
Rhonda Byrne also forgot to mention the problem of discontent and pessimism whereupon people aren’t happy no matter what they have i.e., the law of ingratitude. In other words she assumed a healthy optimistic, hopeful, heart and mind i.e., a healthy spiritual state. Yet, that’s an assumption. Many people aren’t spiritually healthy. Many people don’t want to put in the effort, because they have self sabotaging beliefs. Many people don’t even want to take responsibility for their actions. If they actually succeed in manifesting, their negative habits can make it so impossible to even enjoy themselves or express any contentment.
Rhonda Byrne also missed out that some people trust fear more than hope and happiness—their need for security and stability may overpower the adventurous spirit that they may have. Some people would rather live in a predictable universe albeit unsatisfactorily than be independent. Yet, it can’t be doubted that new age has had a huge impact on how people look at themselves and their lives. This is a continuing trend.
10 Ways New age Thought Changed Us:
1. New age does not distinguish between an external god or an internal desire for god. Both are one and the same. There is no need to prove or disprove god.
2. There is no lesser or greater in the relationship with god, instead it is a relationship of mutual love. This is a somewhat radical thought. People who believe in a god who is to be feared will struggle greatly with new age conceptualizations of god.
3. New age is totally neutral when it comes to gender roles. You are not your gender.
4. New age offers no ethics, other than self-love. This selfishness allows people to be more generous with their love to others as well.
5. Your self is a concept, not a fact. New age writers conceptualize a human being as a thought, a potential rather than a personality. In this way they differ completely from Western psychological concepts. This concept is derived from Buddha’s teachings and some other gnostic traditions also suggest that the concept of the self is something worth losing for real and sustained freedom from suffering.
6. New age writers differ in their idea of fate, by and large they do not believe in fate, but they believe in soul lessons or karma (actions and consequences).
7. New age writers believe in an infinite universe that is quantum (limitless) in its possibilities, thus faith and trust are the magical ingredients for a happy life.
8. New age writers do not deny or abandon any concept of god or spiritual tradition, they are ok to mix them up to make a point or provide wisdom for their readers. They don’t see any one path as intrinsically superior.
9. The purpose of life, according to new age writers is not the obedience of mankind to a god, but lessons for growth and empowerment.
10. New age writers mostly believe in reincarnation and past lives. They don’t believe in heaven or hell in the afterlife, instead they see it as metaphors. Many new age writers meditate and are involved with examining occult philosophies, paganism, and other theologies as independent writers.
Are you an Open Source Spiritualist?
Do you like the expanded idea of the universe or do you feel it is fake?
Do you find yourself repulsed by hippy ideas, paganism, wicca or wayne dyer type christ consciousness?
Do you like the idea of spiritual materialism, altars, stones, meditation supplies, music or does it feel like fluff?
Do you think that beneath the open source face of new agism lies habitual race consciousness?
How attached are you to ‘your’ culture?
What are your personal biases—who do you prefer, Rhonda Byrnes or Eckhart Tolle?
Do you feel oriental-ism fits in with new age, or does it separate the modern world from the ‘barbarian’ world?
How comfortable do you feel with being an independent individual in society i.e., the new age concept vs., a member of a collectivist identity or group e.g., a religious affiliation? Can you be both?
Happy new aging!
Love & blessings for your journey