What is this “New Age” that people try so hard either to identify themselves with or distance themselves from? Are big changes really on the horizon? If so, what can we expect and what should we do?
Well, the short answer is that there are two movements that are often called New Age, one of which is completely fake and the other surprisingly real. Society need not worry about the gloom-and-doom prophets and should not indulge in the love-and-light hippies. They will soon fall by the wayside. What we need to seriously consider is the large number of people who want radical changes in human civilization and are willing to fight for their vision.
Let us more closely examine the fake New Age movement. It consists of:
- people who refuse to give up on their ’60s dreams, who continue to believe that a world of universal peace and affluence is easily within reach;
- Western devotees of adapted Eastern or Native American religion, following various gurus;
- feminist pagans and wiccans that worship at the altar of sexuality;
- astrologers and their supporters, as well as people interested in other “magickal arts”;
- pop psychologists, pop theologians, and those gullible souls who buy their books and videos;
- proponents of a wide array of Millenial theories (Nostradamus, earth changes, etc.), who often build their own bomb shelters and prepare for nuclear war;
- conspiracy theorists who believe every story they hear about underground alien bases and such speculation;
- ecological cults and compounds, extreme vegetarians, animal rights people, and the like.
The reason I call such things fake is not because they are necessarily wrong or bad. Some are misguided, others unrealistic, and a few perhaps worth considering. But all of these things are incorrectly labeled “New Age” because they are all either old or discredited. Zen Buddhism is fine, but it is not New Age – simply because it is a faith of the ancient world. Both astrology and apocalyptic prophesy are old and discredited. You get the point.
So what is the real New Age movement? Does it even exist? Yes, but right now it is largely invisible. I guess it could be called the new New Age, since it has not yet become a major force in society. The people I am referring to are the mature, intelligent type who oppose the establishment and seek to build a better world. Many of them are responsible Generation Xers (they do indeed exist) who are disillusioned with the system and want to take action; many are middle-aged ex-hippies or ex-Christians looking for a fresh message that’s both idealistic and practical.
Right now we are stuck with some serious problems in our world, so it is only natural that many people would challenge traditional ways of thinking and doing things. Here are the two basic areas of concern:
- We face ballooning environmental destruction. Despite recent evidence suggesting that global warming and the ozone hole are not as bad as once thought, this is no reason to opt for reckless abuse of the ecosystem. Forests, especially the precious jungles of the tropics, are being cut and burned down to make way for urbanization and meager agriculture. Industry and transportation continue to spew tremendous amounts of noxious gas into the atmosphere. Underground watersheds are being depleted as irrigation spreads. Rivers are drying up as the desert is colonized. The world’s population is growing fast, so these things can only get worse unless we are willing to make radical changes.
- We face terrible cultural decay and the impending collapse of important societal institutions. Violent crime is out of control due to the proliferation of liberal ideology. Our children are being raised in cheap day-care with television as their only parents. A growing segment of the population is living far beyond their means on easy credit; and as one would expect, most Western governments are deeply in debt to their own people, regardless of high tax rates. Whenever the next major economic collapse occurs, it could thus explode into another Great Depression. More immediate, however, is the fall of the Church as people realize that ancient scripture no longer satisfactorily answers their questions. If a new philosophy does not rise and profoundly affect the workings of our society, there is little hope.
On the other hand, we also have the potential to make our future great. New technology is empowering us with capabilities never before imaginable. New possibilities such as space travel and extraterrestrial intelligence are pushing their way into full view. Is it not then time for new ideas and new institutions? Those who answer “yes” are part of the New Age movement. The ideas and institutions they wish to see established determine whether they look to a realistic future or a ridiculous fantasy.
So now we finally get to the most important question of all: how do we enter the New Age? First of all, it can be expected that many radical views will be tossed around for a while before the right ones are found. The next several decades should prove to be a time of conflict and uncertainty. I believe that Eric Stetson is definitely on the right track with his concept of cosmic maturity, but the real merit of any philosophy is for the world to decide. It will certainly take time for a large enough portion of the population to agree on what the guiding principles of the New Age should be.
But ultimately, the true spirit of the New Age is concern about the present and hope for the future. Specific details will work themselves out. Until then, a vicious fight will be erupting between those who want radical change and those who want to retreat back into the shell of tradition. We must speak loudly yet with words of reason. If the establishment prevails for too long, today’s problems could become tomorrow’s deathknell. But if the New Age movement is able to unite behind a comprehensive, sensible worldview for the future, the New Age will soon be upon us. And then who knows what humanity might achieve.