What is “old time” religion and how does it differ from the philosophy of the New Age? 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 that is defined by significant historical markers. The Bronze Age, for instance. This a period in 3rd Century BC characterized by the development of bronze for various instruments. When something is new, it is something recently acquired, or discovered.
What is the New Age?
This is a term from the 1970s describing an eclectic combination of spiritual practices. It is better to describe it as the human potential movement. The primary focus of this philosophy is self-development or consciousness development.
But is the strategy behind this movement really a new idea? No. The strategy 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 practices. He took from tradition those practices that are effective. He built his 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 a different goal and focus.
What is Old Time Religion?
The term old-time religion comes from a traditional gospel song, by the same name dating to 1873. Today people in the Fundamentalist Christian Church use this term to describe their beliefs.
Three religions dominate our cultural narrative and boast a combined membership of 4 billion people. That’s about half the population of the world. These three are the Abrahamic or Semitic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Because they control half of the cultural narrative, they exert control over people and the governments where they take root.
Christianity is the combination of earlier Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Assyrian mystery religions. The makers of Western theology used these to create a cost-effective income generation pipeline. So, the core of Christianity is the assimilation of religions already in place to create a universal religion.
The strategy of combining several mythologies into one provides vast cultural reach. This provides the greatest return on investment. No need to keep an army in place. Religion is self-policing using peer pressure to maintain cash flow.
The primary focus is on selling the afterlife. A commodity with no unsatisfied customers. This provided massive streams of wealth, making organized religion war-proof. 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 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 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 Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 14 (1907) (5)
So, what is the meaning of old time religion? It is a cash flow system based on combining the mystery religions of the Mediterranean region. They pioneered the strategy of combining different systems.
The difference between the two is the focus. The focus of this religion is to create a scalable cash flow system based on selling the afterlife. Whereas the focus of the philosophy of the New Age movement is on self-development. It’s the same strategy, but a different goal and focus.
So, what happens when you create something that competes for the hearts and minds 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 name of the organized persecution of everyone who had ideas that threatened their customer base. They could do this in the 1970s. So, they used the only tools it had, demonizing the competition.
Demonizing New Age
The attempt to demonize practices of “human potential movement” is born out of religious prejudice. It’s a ploy to disparage practice which does not align with the Western theological construct.
This strategy is effective because the Church controls the cultural narrative in many countries. So, they make the practice of self-development evil 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 sects of the Abrahamic tradition 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. 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. This includes the new age movement or human potential movement. These systems encourage the exploration and development of your 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 is practice the processes. There’s a huge 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. The main difference between this and the philosophy of the New Age movement is the focus on developing human potential. Western theology on doctrine and dogma to create sustainable cash flow.
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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