The New Age - Defining Its Origins and What It Is

 

Defining 'New Age' is of course a difficult thing to do, since it means so many different things to different people. The term has been appropriated by all kinds of groups, and has become a permanent marketing concept on bookstore shelves. Yet do we know where this concept of "New Age" originated and what is it?

The expression 'New Age' spirituality came into existence in the 1970s and 1980s and developed starting in the Western nations. Growing up as one of the Baby Boomers, I felt and experienced the progression of this New Age from a personal standpoint. Culture was changing around me, and sometimes not for the best or to my liking. First, music was changing heralding in the era of folk, pop and rock n' roll music. Music has its eras, but this era included recreational drugs, psychedelics, and electronic music, which made another whole music era that took rock n' roll into another level morphing into acid rock then hard rock and heavy metal. By then, modern music had lost me, it was like being in another world. The Beatles were the icon of both rock music and incorporating drugs into their song making. They were known to use marijuana heavily, but then they started experimenting with LSD.

The Beatles
While the Beatles were changing history so too did the youth. Feeling more free than prior generations, probably helped by the sense of false freedom and power these recreational drugs and their music elicited, they started joining together and fighting causes. The Vietnam War was one of the major causes these youth opposed, triggering the most tenacious anti-war movement in U.S. history. Over the next decade, hundreds of thousands of young people become radicalized in a largely nonviolent culture of war resistance. The movement against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War began small, but growing among peace activists and leftist intellectuals on college campuses as well as from within the Hippie Movement. The Hippie Movement encouraged free love, i.e. sex at any time and with anyone. Clothes were even too much, so wearing none was also promoted. They also promoted the recreational use of hallucinogenic drugs, particularly marijuana and LSD. Thus, by 1967, one of the most prominent anti-war demonstrations took place, as some 100,000 protesters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial. 

The Women's Liberation Movement
The Women's Liberation Movement also began during that time and was focused on righting the inequality between men and women in the workplace. Women were not wanting to be subjugated to just being mothers, wives and homemakers, they believed they should have freedom to go out and work outside the home as well as men. They also wanted better pay and opportunities that were being denied them for just being women. The Sexual Revolution, also was developing, which challenged traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality from the 1960s to the 1980s. The sexual liberation included increased acceptance of sex outside of marriage and normalizing the use of contraceptives, which was coming into vogue with the birth control pill.  Alternative sexuality was becoming more acceptable and, and in the United States, Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion.

This was an age of freedom, but not of the moral kind. I witnessed these activities from a distance, not interested in this way of life because I was a 'spiritual' person. Yet the wave of freedom was permeating life in general, and religion was not exempt. Growing up in traditional churches left many unsatisfied, they wanted more although they were not sure what the "more" was. They just knew they weren't finding the "more" in their churches.

Paramahansa Yogananda
Meanwhile, the East had been brought to the West when Paramahansa Yogananda moved to America bringing his Hindu and Kriya Yoga beliefs. He was the first Hindu teacher of yoga to spend a major portion of his life in America, living in the U.S. from 1920 until 1952. He founded the Self-Realization Fellowship in the 1920s. His Autobiography of a Yogi was published in 1946 and was slowly finding its way into this new freedom age. The name "Self-Realization Fellowship" says it all in relationship to the New Age. It was all about becoming self-realized by pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. The image should enlighten one to the impossibility of such a concept and belief, yet to the culture that was developing around these new movements, it made total sense.

"We don't need anyone telling us what to do!" was the unspoken byword. And it was easy then to take the next step and believe the ideas that followed. "We are all gods!" "We don't need the Catholic Church and its hierarchy to tell us how to live our lives. We don't need a government saying what we can and cannot do. We don't need a church or the Bible to give us outdated dogmas that don't fit in with the new freedom and enlightenment that God originally gave us." These were just some of the thoughts that subtly permeated the beginnings of the New Age.

Age of Aquarius
The musical Broadway show opening of "Hair" was in 1968. It frankly was very disturbing. Profanity, sexual politics, drugs and the treatment of the American flag were all crucial elements of the show. Then there was the nudity, the first time in Broadway history. While most youth outside of New York did not see the show, the music still had a profound effect on them. "The Age of Aquarius" or "Let the Sunshine In", sung by The 5th Dimension, hit the top of the Billboards for six weeks and was the number one song for the year. The lyrics of this song were based on the astrological belief that the world would soon be entering the "Age of Aquarius", an age of love, light, and humanity, unlike the current "Age of Pisces", i.e. the age of "wars and restrictions".

To my thinking, this song filled the airways across America and into the minds and psyche of the youth. It was easy to believe that this really was happening, we were entering a "New Age" and maybe even the end of an age and the heralding in of the "Golden Age". St. Germain, through the "I AM" Movement, had already planted just such a type of seed in the 1930s. Patriotism in their members was very high, and the belief that through decrees these people could change and alter the history of America (and maybe the world as well) was very widespread among the members. Then the Bridge to Freedom built upon that belief. The Ascended Masters said through them: "The overall plan is to redeem the Earth quickly, to restore it to perfection, and to bring mankind, again, into conscious communication with the Ascended Host, so that a new, glorious Golden Age may manifest." (Werner Schroeder, The Initiations of the First Ray)

Most people had never heard of the "I AM" Movement and even less had heard of "The Bridge to Freedom" or the Ascended Masters. Yet between these movements and the youth culture and some deliberate programming by socialists of the time, a coherent mindset was being developed that was affecting the consciousness of the people. It was all about rebellion, although many normal people did not view it that way at all. Yes, the hippies were rebellious, the drug culture was being rebellious, the music, free sex and nudity was all a part of the rebellious culture, but the normal people being rebellious?

These young people at that time did not consider themselves ‘New Age’ as the term had not yet been propagated. Yet they were turning away from organized spiritual beliefs to another belief and dogma, " Loving everyone and everything, with no judgment or rules." They were joining together in similar belief systems that had its strong basis in freedom, albeit a false freedom based on doing whatever they wanted.

Findhorn Trust, later known as Findhorn Foundation, was a small group of individuals who banded together in Scotland in 1962. The group's principal focus was dedication to the 'Christ Within' and following God's guidance. One of the women believed she had a direct relationship with God and could channel the nature spirits. In 1975 two books came out about their early experiences called, The Findhorn Garden and The Magic Of Findhorn. They worked with the nature spirits to transform their rocky barren ground into a miniature garden of Eden resulting in 40-pound cabbages and 60-pound broccoli plants. Later a spiritual community developed around them where thousands have come to stay with them over the ensuing decades. They helped establish the New Age movement that began in Britain, although again, there was no such term in the mainstream.

Reincarnation
Shirley MacLaine’s book, Out on a Limb, published in 1983, became another defining point. Her book describes her travels and studies, which include science fiction-like dimensions, out-of-body travel, contact with extraterrestrial beings, “trance channeling” (séances), and a “guided tour” of the unseen world. MacLaine’s second book, Dancing in the Light, tells about her reach into the world of yoga, reincarnation, crystal power, Hindu mantras, and past-life recall experiences mediated through acupuncture. Her spirit guides informed her that each individual is God. I read about her past life experiences and was intrigued. Here was someone famous sharing openly their investigations into the unseen world. Yet even she herself questioned the reality of what she was getting, as one should. Whether she wrote that or believed that in sincerity is unknown.

At an earlier time I read many of Edgar Cayce's books also on reincarnation, God and creation, karma and spirituality. Cayce opened up a new way of channeling, putting yourself to sleep. While he brought healing remedies and recommendations very effective to heal the diseases and issues, his delving into the spiritual world and answering questions about the secrets of life and creation took him into unknown territory without being able to confirm or deny what was coming through him. Thus the information outside of his healing work that came through him was very questionable.

Metaphysical books had a whole section devoted to that subject in bookstores. These were topics that Christian churches were not broaching. People were looking for answers, as they always have, but with technology advancing information was becoming more widespread and available. Why stick with the unknown when you can find answers through this or that channel who has a "direct link" to the Spirit world?

In 1970 the move On a Clear Day You Can See Forever hit the movie theaters, starring Barbara Streisand. It was a story about a woman who was unintentionally hypnotized during a class taught by a psychiatrist. She decides to try hypnotherapy with him to cure her chain smoking and ends up going back to a past life whereby a love story ensues. I was intrigued by this story, not having ever seen anything in Hollywood bringing up the subject of reincarnation. The idea of meeting the same people in several lifetimes to work out differences made total sense, especially in conjunction with the New Age belief on karma and having the Higher Power to help you raise your consciousness and change your negative past momentums. Then there is the violet flame and its transmutative power to free you from your negative karma. And you did not have to keep embodying, you could win your ascension and be free of the cycle of rebirth just as Gautama Buddha taught by achieving nirvana, the state of pure happiness.

Healing the Body, Mind and Soul
Healing was also a very important subject for people in this New Age and with my interest in natural healing I studied all manner of "New Age" healing modalities like Health Kinesiology, which was entirely a New Age method of healing. The New Age mentality that was building in those last decades of the 90's were opening up all manner of avenues for self-healing and personal transformation, without having to go to traditional psychologists or specialists for this and that infirmity. We these new techniques uncovering the cause behind the effect and correcting the imbalances behind the diseases was not only fun and rewarding, but inspiring to see the positive changes unfold.

Hadn't we spent our time in churches learning how much we needed to become less human and more spiritual? At least I saw it that way. Sacrificing and letting go of the 'lower self', which was never mentioned in church only sin and sinners, was a better way to look at the unreality of the human self rather than the idea of being sinners. Using one's chakras properly and focusing on God's Light to heal yourself was a part of this new movement. It was about channeling your energies properly and transcending the 'ego' which was the part of self that caused you to sin.

Eastern mysticism was also attractive to the burgeoning community of New Agers. The ancient Eastern philosophies brought techniques to bypass the lower mind, balance the chakras and restore light and energies to the body. Understanding how the chakras are focuses of light in the body and how to protect and heal them also brought positive changes into people's lives. Obtaining “cosmic consciousness” by transcending the human mind was an important goal. While some groups focused on the Eastern side of reincarnation and becoming "mindless", using meditation and other Eastern spiritual practices, other groups focused on self-transformation through love. There was no one way to be a New Ager, or any certain path one had to fulfill. You were free to practice at will what worked for you in order to obtain this Higher Consciousness.

The Roots of the News Age Spirituality
One could say the roots of this New Age began as early as the Gnostics. Then in recent centuries spiritualism has become rife in the fringe circles of societies with such spiritual movements as the Rosicrucians, Freemasonry, Swedenborgianism and ceremonial magic that was popularized by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Over this last century these new movements have become more culturally acceptable by not making their organizations secret orders and including ideas that are meant to bring positive change to not only oneself but to all of humanity.

Being an Ascended Master student for many years, I saw many New Age groups that were entirely different from Ascended Master students. These New Agers were spiritual, but not religious. Generally, many of them had different beliefs from the teachings of the Bible, or even from the Ascended Master organizations like believing that there is no sin or judgment. New Agers appear to be extremely amicable with everyone, to the point that everyone's beliefs are acceptable and to be tolerated in a loving manner. They believe that God did not create the universe, but God is the universe and everyone is God (once they can raise their consciousness to see it), therefore all is One and individuality is an illusion. There is also this "pick and choose" mentality amongst New Agers. Individuals can pick and choose what they like out of any religion or spiritual philosophy and even throw in a little Wicca, and feel that they are on the right path. This type of New Age belief allows one the freedom to do whatever they want because they have a holier-than-thou belief system to go along with it, after all, all is God.

Some other beliefs that many New Agers have are:

  • We are all made in the image of God. The Hebrew Scriptures teach that all humans are really divine, but we just fail to realize it.
  • Likewise, we all have a Divine Higher Self.
  • We all have guardian angels and inner guides.
  • There are a wide variety of divine beings such as angels and masters, with whom humans can communicate, particularly through the form of channeling.
  • Jesus is usual held in high regard, believing Him to be a great spiritual teacher, or guru.
  • New Age inner work involves turning inward to seek the wisdom either from the Higher Self, inner guides, or the power of the unconscious mind and subconscious minds.
  • All religious paths lead to God. 
  • Mind creates reality. 
  • One’s own experience validates the truth.
  • There is a strong focus on healing, particularly using forms of alternative medicine.
  • Disease begins at the energetic level and should be treated energetically.
  • Having an emphasis on a New Age "science" that seeks to unite science and spirituality.
  • Humanity once lived in an age of great technological advancement and spiritual wisdom and then fell. The current age is also in an age of great technological advancement, but it has entered a period of spiritual degeneracy, which will be remedied through the establishment of a coming Age of Aquarius.
  • Mankind need to seek Higher Consciousness to remedy their spiritual deplorableness. This can be accomplished through meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, diet, crystals, channeling. spirit guides, or whatever their particular belief system incorporates. The purpose is to awaken the god in man.

Are New Age spiritual people falling away from Truth and God Reality? They would vehemently disagree and state quite to the contrary, they are far more into God Reality and Truth than their counterparts who go to traditional churches. Are homeopathics, essential oils, the practice of yoga, the study of astrology, acupuncture, iridology, massage, kinesiology, biofeedback, and the like all New Age and potentially antichrist or evil?

Any of those practices and healing methods could potentially take one into spiritualism and the unknown when not properly practiced as traditionally taught. It depends on what type of yoga one practices, or what type of astrology, or what type of massage or kinesiology. There can be bad in anything good if the the right intent is not there to begin with, or the state of mind and heart are geared to greed and power.

I have practiced or received every one of these listed studies and healing methods. Personally, I have received great benefits from some of them, and others I may have tried once and moved on. I believe what medicine, doctor or natural herb one uses for healing is between you and God, and governed by your consciousness and state of spirituality. There is no one right way to live or heal. Yet the path is straight and narrow.

Closing
I believe in Matthew 7, there is so much wisdom and gifts of understanding in Jesus' teachings, that we can find the answers to what we as individuals need for our growth and well-being if we turn to the Bible for answers and pray to God for help. I will close with some of these teachings that are applicable to help us understand why the New Age can be as unhealthy for our souls and spirits as much as it can be healthy.

The Narrow Gate
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Ask, Seek, Knock
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Do Not Judge
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

A Tree and its Fruit
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.