“New Age” is a term from the 1970s describing an eclectic combination of spiritual practices. Is this really a new idea?
What is “New Age”
In the first place, “New Age” isn’t new at all. Surprisingly, there’s a well-known strategy at its core. You see, it’s essentially, combining ideas with a common theme to create something new. The primary focus of “New Age” philosophy is self-development.
You can find evidence of this strategy in several ancient religions. It’s reflected in the stories of Zoroaster, Mithra, and Jesus, to modern day Sages like Gurdjieff. For example, Gurdjieff traveled extensively in Europe researching practices from a variety of cultures. He took from tradition those practices which are effective. He built his own system renaming and rebranding as he saw fit. Then he set up schools to test and teach his processes. This type of rebranding effort isn’t new. Modern religions use a similar strategy but with the emphasis on doctrine instead of practices.
What is “Old Time Religion”
The Abrahamic religions (The Western Organized Religions of Semitic origin including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are also the result of an eclectic combination of earlier traditions. Their doctrines and beliefs are the results of a rebranding effort. They took Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian and Assyrian mystery religious and gave it a new name.
The makers of Western theology were concerned with creating a cost-effective income generation pipeline. They simply rebranded what was already in place. The strategy of combining several mythologies into one provides cultural reach and control with the greatest return on investment. No need to keep an army in place. The religion is self-policing using peer pressure to maintain the cash flow. Here the focus was on selling the afterlife. A commodity with no unsatisfied customers. This provided massive streams of wealth making organized religion war-proof.
For example, the makers of the Christian paradigm, the Catholic Church admit to the borrowing and assimilating of earlier traditions. Although this admission is not a public one. Here’s a reference from the Catholic Encyclopedia 1907.
The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 14 (1907). Symbolism in a greater or lesser degree is essential to every kind of external worship, and we need not shrink from the conclusion that in the matter of baptisms and washings, of genuflection’s and other acts of reverence, of lights and sweet smelling incense, of flowers and white vestures, of spiritual unction’s and the imposing of hands, of sacrifice and the rite of the Communion banquet, the Church has borrowed without hesitation from the common stock of significant actions known to all periods and to all nations. In such matters as these, Christianity claims no monopoly or originality.
The Attempt to Demonize the Term “New Age”
Today, some people try to use the term “New Age” as an insult. As mentioned above the strategy of New Age was to combine practices. The attempt to demonize practices of “New Age” is born out of religious prejudice. It’s a ploy to disparage practice that is not in alignment with the Western theological construct. But, as stated above this insult is really a position of no merit. Above all, it’s a strategy to keep their paying customers.
Other researchers of the early 18th like Kersey Graves thought that the light of the origins would be the end of Western Organized Religion. But, they underestimated the power of religious indoctrination. Virtually all of the other later sects of the Abrahamic tradition borrowed extensively from what they later demonized as Pagan or Occult heresy.
Religion the Most Powerful Social Institution
Religion still represents the single most influential social institution on the planet. However, not all religions are harmful. Only those that create boundaries and restrictions dictating values and thought. As a result, these are harmful because they adversely affect our ability to reason. Some religions have more boundaries than others.
For example, Taoism and many forms of Paganism have the fewest constraints over freethinking. These systems encourage the exploration and development of your own path. This contrasts with the concerns of Western organized religion. Thankfully, you don’t have to join a religion to engage in spiritual exploration. All you need to do is learn and practice the processes. There’s a huge difference between religion and spiritual exploration.
So, the New Age strategy of the 1970s is really new. It’s an age-old strategy. We evidence of its use in the structure of the Abrahamic traditions. The main difference between Western Organized Religion and New Age is on the focus of the material they combined. In contrast, New Age focuses on consciousness development. Western theology on doctrine and dogma to create sustainable cash flow.
If this article resonates, there are more on our blog. Also, you may be interested in learning about our blended learning process. This is our curriculum which we use to teach several mind-expanding tools. It also aligns the Hero’s Journey. This is the term Joseph Campbell gave the pattern of consciousness development. Our learning process is available in two forms. You can take part in the virtual learning module or in our workshops.
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