Beliefs, practices, etc.
The New Age Movement is in a class by itself. Unlike most formal religions, it has no holy text, central organization, membership, formal clergy, geographic center, dogma, creed, etc. They often use mutually exclusive definitions for some of their terms. The New Age is in fact a free-flowing spiritual movement; a network of believers and practitioners who share somewhat similar beliefs and practices, which they add on to whichever formal religion that they follow. Their book publishers take the place of a central organization; seminars, conventions, books and informal groups replace of sermons and religious services.
Quoting John Naisbitt:
"In turbulent times, in times of great change, people head for the two extremes: fundamentalism and personal, spiritual experience...With no membership lists or even a coherent philosophy or dogma, it is difficult to define or measure the unorganized New Age movement. But in every major U.S. and European city, thousands who seek insight and personal growth cluster around a metaphysical bookstore, a spiritual teacher, or an education center."1
The New Age is definitely a heterogeneous
movement of individuals; most graft some new age beliefs onto their
regular religious affiliation. Recent surveys of US adults indicate that
many Americans hold at least some new age beliefs:
consciousness that a person may reach"
8% define God as "the total realization of personal, human potential"
3% believe that each person is God.
The group of surveys cited above classify religious beliefs into 7 faith groups. 2 Starting with the largest, they are: Cultural (Christmas & Easter) Christianity, Conventional Christianity, New Age Practitioner, Biblical (Fundamentalist, Evangelical) Christianity, Atheist/Agnostic, Other, and Jewish, A longitudinal study from 1991 to 1995 shows that New Agers represent a steady 20% of the population, and are consistently the third largest religious group. 2
New Age teachings became popular during the 1970's as a reaction against what some perceived as the failure of Christianity and the failure of Secular Humanism to provide spiritual and ethical guidance for the future. Its roots are traceable to many sources: Astrology, Channeling, Hinduism, Gnostic traditions, , Spiritualism, Taosim, Theosophy, Wicca and other Neo-pagan traditions, etc. The movement started in England in the 1960's where many of these elements were well established. Small groups, such as the Findhorn Community in Inverness and the Wrekin Trust formed. The movement quickly became international. Early New Age mileposts in North America were a "New Age Seminar" ran by the Association for Research and Enlightenment, and the establishment of the East-West Journal in 1971. Actress Shirley MacLaine is perhaps their most famous current figure.
During the 1980's and 90's, the movement came under criticism from a variety of groups. Channeling was ridiculed; seminar and group leaders were criticized for the fortunes that they made from New Agers. Their uncritical belief in the "scientific" properties of crystals was exposed as groundless. But the movement has become established and become a stable, major force in North American
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