Although the New Age movement is not technically a religion , eight to nine percent of people that do not believe in organized religion find the New Age as their replacement.
The New Age movement is very difficult to describe although not impossible. It is a complex sociological phenomenon that can be perceived in many ways. Basically, what another person sees, the other may not. The New Age movement is best understood as a network of networks. A network is an informal, loosely knit organization which is very different in both structure and operation than other types of organizations. Networks are spontaneously created by people to address problems and offer possibilities primarily outside of established institutions. Networks tend to be decentralized, often having no single leader of headquarters and with power and responsibility widely distributed. Networks also see through many perspectives. The New Age movement is an extremely large and structured network of organization and individuals that are bound together by common values. These values are based on mysticism and monism which is the world view that "all is one".
The New Age movement is not a cult by any accepted sociological definition. Although there are several cults which could be classified within, such as the Transcendental Meditation and the followers of deported Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Cult membership is by far the exception and not the rule for New Agers. New Agers tend to be eclectic which means that they draw what they think is the best from various sources. Exclusive devotion to a single teacher, teaching or techniques is not long term. They move from one approach to "wholeness" to another in their spiritual quest.(Miller. 1989. P.18)
New Agers consider spirituality much more a matter of experience than belief. Some New Agers do not believe that their beliefs are universal. Beliefs are often portrayed as direct impediments to enlightenment. As I stated before, all New Agers believe that "all is one". A second assumption is that this Ultimate reality is neither dead matter nor unconscious energy. In other words, it is Being and Awareness. New Agers believe that man is separated by God only in his own conscious and awareness. Therefore he is the victim of a false sense of separate identity which makes him unable to see his essential unity with God. This is supposed to be the cause of all his problems. New Agers believe that a man can be saved and made whole by spiritual technology. New Agers believe that specific techniques for changing the consciousness can enable the seeker to consciously experience his supposed oneness with God. The techniques can be meditation, chanting and dancing. Salvation for the New Ager is linked with experimental knowledge. In addition to the beliefs just stated, most New Agers adhere to the ancient Hindu doctrines of reincarnation and Karma. By the definition of Karma, it is understood that whatever a person does, whether it is good or bad, it will return to him in the exact proportion of good or bad. It should be made known that New Agers go on to spiritualize the universe by making consciousness its essence, rather than matter. (Miller. 1989, p.22)
Until the later 1980's the majority of Americans were unfamiliar with the New Age movement. There is no doubt that they had encountered certain elements of the New Age, such as Yoga, reincarnation, and astrology. It was not until late 1986 and throughout 1987 that the New Age movement finally caught the media's attention. A large and varied assortment of believers including celebrities were just the type of publicity that the New Age movement needed to catch the media's attention. And so, one article after another began to appear. However, the media's focus remained entirely on the movements more sensational side, treating it like a fad or fashion. But, the New Age movement has yet to be discovered by the media due to the fact that this movement is a serious cultural development. (Chandler. 1988. P.26)
Even though the New Age movement is a minority within our society, it is an active minority. It currently has very little political power, but an expanding social influence. It views its ideas and programs as the new wave of the future and believes that it only needs the support of a few people to overturn traditional religion. Misunderstanding the New Agers is not rare, Christians have viewed them as people who are anti Christ, therefore, most Christians have regarded them with fear and hate. But, further in my reading, it was stated that New Agers are intelligent, humanitarian and generally sincere group of people. It seems that what the book was trying to project to the reader was that people should try to understand the New Agers instead of looking for the evil, because if they do not, they will fail to see New Agers for who they really are. (Miller. 1989. P.21)
In some respects, New Age religion can be classified as the classic monistic Hinduism, known as Vedanta. Their most basic beliefs about God, the world, man and salvation are the same as are the mystical experiences. Much of the New Age technology that produced these experiences has come from India. But, New Agers have rejected the traditional Hindu view of the world because many of them have a social conscience. Their desire is to change the world not leave it. The other reason is that many of them desire personal as well as spiritual fulfillment. In comparison to the Christian religion their difference lies in the belief that all is one (god), therefore there could be no sin and no death. The death of Christ for our sins becomes meaningless. Although the New Agers will agree that Jesus Christ is God, his world view will always compel him to say that Jesus is no more God than anyone else. In the Christian religion, Jesus is separated from the rest of humanity in fact that he is demonstrated as divine. In my opinion, I do not think that I could consider myself as equal with God or Jesus, therefore I personally did not believe in some aspects of this religion. (Lewis. 1992, p.48)
In choosing this religion as my area of research, I never realized the complexity of the topic. Through extensive research I have developed a keen understanding of this topic. There are some things that I strongly agree with while others need to be put to the test.
Chandler, R. 1988. Understanding The New Age. Word Publishing. Dallas
Miller, E. 1989. A Crash Course On The New Age Movement. Baker Book House. Michigan.
Lewis, J. 1992. Perspectives On The New Age. State University of New York Press. Albany.
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