What is “old-time” religion, and how does it differ from the New Age philosophy? Perhaps they are not as far apart as our culture would have us believe?
Let’s start by breaking down some terms. The term Age is a period of history defined by significant historical markers. The Bronze Age, for instance. It is the period in the 3rd Century BC characterized by bronze casting development. The term “age” can also apply to religious or philosophical movements. The dark ages began in the mid-1300s to the mid-1600s. When the Church exerted its force, creating the Holy Inquisition and solidifying its power in society.
What is The New Age or Human Potential Movement?
The term ” the new-age” is from the 1970s, which describes an eclectic combination of spiritual self-development practices. The primary focus of this philosophy is self-development or consciousness exploration and development.
But is the strategy behind this movement a new idea? No. The design behind this philosophy isn’t new at all. There’s a well-known strategy at its core. It’s combining ideas with a common theme to create something new. You can find evidence of this strategy in several ancient religions. It’s reflected in the stories of Zoroaster (1), Mithra (2), and even Jesus (3), to modern-day Sages like George Gurdjieff (4).
For example, Gurdjieff traveled extensively in Europe, researching spiritual systems. He combined them into a unique structure, 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 a different goal and focus. The new age or human potential movement focuses on self-development, not mythology.
What is Old-Time Religion?
The term comes from a traditional gospel song by the same name dating 1873. Today people in the Fundamentalist Christian Church use this term to describe their beliefs.
Three religions dominate our cultural narrative. These are the Abrahamic or Semitic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Together they boast a membership of 4 billion. That’s about half the population of the world. Because they control half of the cultural narrative, they influence the governments where they take root.
Christianity is the rebranding of earlier Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Assyrian mystery religions. So, the core of Christianity is the assimilation of religions. Nevertheless, as flawed and illogical as it is, it is still a cost-effective cash flow pipeline.
The strategy of combining several mythologies into one provides vast cultural reach. It’s an intelligent way to get the greatest return on investment—no need to keep an army in place. Western religion uses fear as its primary tool for recruiting and retaining members. It is self-policing using peer pressure to create a cost-effective cash flow system. It has nothing to do with developing human potential.
Western religion’s primary focus is on selling the afterlife, an intangible commodity with no unsatisfied customers. It provides massive wealth streams, making organized religion resilient to war, pestilence, or social change. And they readily admit to assimilating their doctrine from earlier traditions. Although this admission is not a public one, here’s a short reference from the Catholic Encyclopedia 1907. Notice the content hidden within the following poetic language.
“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 vestitures, 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 Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 14 (1907) (5)
So, what is the meaning of old-time religion? It is a rebranded copy of the mystery religions of the Mediterranean region. It is an ingenious way to create a cost-effective cash-flow system that has made the Vatican the most wealthy country in the world.
The difference between the two is the focus. Western organized religion’s focus is creating a scalable cash flow system. In comparison, the direction of the New Age or human potential movement is on self-development. It’s the same strategy but a different goal and focus.
What happens when you threaten the customer base of those in control of the cultural narrative? When this happened in the dark ages, the Church went on a global cleansing campaign. The Inquisition is the organized persecution of everyone who had ideas that threatened their customer base. They couldn’t do this in the 1970s. So, they used the only tools they had, demonizing the competition.
Demonizing New Age
The attempt to demonize practices of the “human potential movement” is born out of religious prejudice. It’s a ploy to disparage anything that does not align with the Western theological construct.
This strategy is effective because the Church controls the cultural narrative in many countries. So, they demonize the practice of self-development because it threatens their customer base. Above all, it’s a strategy to keep their paying customers, and the New Age movement is a threat to this cash flow.
Other researchers of the early 18th like Kersey Graves (6), thought that the light of the origins would be the end of Western Organized Religion. But, they underestimated the power of religious indoctrination. Of course, all the Abrahamic tradition sects borrowed 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. 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 limitations than others.
For example, Taoism and Paganism have the fewest constraints over freethinking. The new age movement or human potential movement would be considered a Pagan approach. These systems encourage the exploration and development of your path, which contrasts with Western organized religion’s concerns.
Thankfully, you don’t have to join a religion to engage in spiritual exploration. All you need to is practice the processes. There’s a vast difference between religion and spiritual exploration.
The strategy of the human potential movement of the 1970s isn’t new. It’s an age-old strategy. We find evidence of its use in the structure of the Abrahamic traditions.
What is the meaning of old-time religion? It is the belief that the Christian Fundamentalist view is superior to all mythologies. Today these mythologies are the bedrock of Western organized religion. Their primary purpose is the creation of a cost-effective cash-flow system. It is very different from New Age philosophy, which focuses on developing human potential.
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(1) Zoroaster, Wikipedia
(2) Mithra, Wikipedia
(3) Jesus, Wikipedia
(4) George Gurdjieff
(5) The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 14 (1907)
(6) Kersey Graves, The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors 1881
(7) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia