What New Age?

As I related in my most recent post entitled CHOICE, I have no aversion to controversy, so I see little reason to waste your valuable Time today with preface or needless prevarication.  Though it might make those who consider themselves to be at the cutting edge of the New Age Movement uncomfortable, I have come to an inescapable conclusion: the New Age is no longer new and no longer relevant.  (Feel free to draw and quarter the messenger if you must, but this will in no way alter the veracity of his message.)  What began as a heartfelt and determined desire to cast off the manacles of institutionalized religion and reclaim a mystical connection to Divinity (and humanity’s corresponding Divine Nature) has over Time metamorphosed into a confused mishmash of conflicting and efficaciously questionable practices often characterized by cults of personality.  Given some of the things many practitioners of New Age spirituality often are willing to believe or do or pay outrageous sums of money for, is it any wonder that mainstream conformist society tends to consider such practitioners to be, at best, humorously misguided eccentrics or, at the worst, dangerously delusional psychotics?

Defending the “no longer new” aspect of my statement is done quite easily and in short order.  Though there was never a fountainhead, several names consistently come to mind when considering the emergence of the Aquarian New Age Movement.  Bailey, Blavatsky, Cayce, Crowley, and Fillmore were Occidentals who paved the way for the introduction to the West of many Eastern teachers and mystics, with but two examples being Paramahansa Yogananda and D.T. Suzuki.  The people mentioned above lived and worked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  No matter how you look at it, there ain’t a thing new about an Age that has been extant for (give or take) well over 100 years.  ‘Nuff said.

As for the admittedly provocative “no longer relevant” comment, I base my position on a dispassionate assessment of an observable lack of results.  For every person that achieves a genuine awakening or personal healing experience within some branch of the New Age paradigm, there are hundreds, even thousands, who do not.  As a result some give up, others return to more orthodox religion or medicine, while many continue to graze at the spiritual buffet in an effort to find even a morsel that will satisfy their hunger.  It can be argued that the fault lies with less than dedicated students, not the teacher or the discipline.  While this position has situational merit the question should be “what degree of practical and consistent efficacy does a given teaching and approach possess?”  All around I see people who have spent hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars on workshops and various otherworldly accoutrement for the stated goal of improving their lives, yet nothing (other than being lighter in the pocketbook) has changed.  They are just as bereft/ill/miserable now as they were the day their search began.  This is the crux of my contention.

I will now speak the unspeakable:  It is not without good reason that the New Age movement has long carried the stench of snake oil.  For every method or teacher capable of delivering what is promised there are innumerable incompetents and outright frauds that can’t.  New Age franchises tend to attract the intrigued and the gullible, and it is those who are the most easily hornswoggled.  The innocent, the desperate, and the lazy are usually the most susceptible to the charms of the quack or the crook.  Though the charlatans have done much to damage the integrity of a movement that began with such noble intentions, the blame for its persistent dubious credibility can be spread evenly between the mountebanks and the dilettantes who enable them.

My goal here is not criticism for its own sake and I will not presume to tell anyone what qualifies as a fraudulent discipline; that is for you to decide.  (I will, however, submit that it is never a bad idea to keep the phrase caveat emptor in mind.)  Neither am I challenging the purveyors of any method to prove to little-ol’-me that their approach is effective.  My challenge is to you, the genuine seeker, to not be blinded by the feel-good nonsense that is so readily available in the spiritual marketplace.  Any practice that demands nothing of a seeker beyond great quantities of cash and (sometimes) adoration of the teacher is, in the view of this heretical mystic, suspect.

Pumped up power-of-positive-thinking drones that, though thinking positively, take no ACTION to change their state are deserving of the limited results their feeble efforts bring.  And you can have all the psychic readings and chakra cleansings that money can buy but, if you don’t make changes to the way you live your life as a result of the knowledge you gained from those readings and capitalize on the benefits of those purifications, you are wasting your money and your Time.  Nothing will ever replace the Time-honored and provable approach of sound theoretical knowledge combined with diligent and persistent work.

Instead of continuing to call an esoteric or mystical approach to spirituality by the outdated and meaningless handle New Age, maybe it would be better to call it Objective Mysticism or Practical Spirituality.  Unless, that is, the objective and/or the practical is not what you seek.  Unless, that is, the status quo is good enough for you.

©Billy Red Horse

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