New Age

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New Age is a broad movement of late 20th century and contemporary Western culture, characterised by an eclectic and individual approach to spiritual exploration.

The New Age is a diverse movement of individuals including many who graft new age beliefs onto a traditional religious affiliation. Recent surveys of US adults indicate that around 20% of Americans hold at least some New Age beliefs.

The New Age movement includes elements of older spiritual and religious traditions from both East and West, many of which have been melded with ideas from modern science, particularly psychology and ecology. The New Age has borrowed from all the world's major religions with influences from Spiritualism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shamanism, Sufism, Taoism, and Neo-Paganism being especially strong. Out of the movement have come a wide-ranging literature on spirituality, new musical styles and crafts - most visible in specialty shops and New Age fairs and festivals.

Contents

Definitions

Though there are no formal or definitive boundaries for membership, those who are likely to sample many diverse teachings and practices (from both 'mainstream' and 'fringe' traditions) and to formulate their own beliefs and practices based on their experiences can be considered as New Age. Rather than following the lead of an organised religion, "New Agers" typically construct their own spiritual journey based on material taken as needed from the mystical traditions of the worlds religions, also including shamanism, neopaganism and occultism.

New Age practices and beliefs may be characterized as a form of alternative spirituality or alternative religion. Even apparent exceptions, such as alternative medicine or traditional medicine practices, often have some spiritual dimension — such as a conceptual integration of mind, body, and spirit.

The term New Age is used in a Western or modern context where the Judeo-Christian tradition and/or Positivism are dominant, so the use of "alternative" in New Age thought generally implies a contrast with these dominant religious and/or scientific beliefs. Hence, many New Age ideas and practices contain either explicit or implied critiques of organised mainstream Christianity—emphasis on meditation suggests that simple prayer and faith is insufficient. Belief in reincarnation (which not all New Age followers accept) challenges familiar Christian doctrines of the afterlife.

Criticism and skepticism

Criticisms of the New Age have emerged from philosophical, scientific and skeptical thinkers. These often highlight the discrepancies between New Age's irreconcilable mix of unproven occultism and claimed acceptance of the laws of physics. Skeptics consider New Age nothing but a re-hash of old superstitions; psychic phenomena and astrology are considered ancient superstitions by most scientific thinkers) with a few new additions (see Bermuda Triangle, therapeutic touch, Indigo children)

Religious and spiritual criticism

Many in established religions dislike New Age thinking as heretical, immoral and shifting without the clear guidance given by a sacred book or tradition of teaching.

Some, including neo-pagans and particularly reconstructionist groups, who are frequently labeled as New Age, often find the term inappropriate since it appears to link them with beliefs and practices they do not espouse. Others think that the classification of beliefs and movements under New Age has little added value due to the vagueness of the term. Instead, they prefer to refer directly to the individual beliefs and movements. Indeed, use by religious conservatives, scientists and others has caused the term "New Age" to sometimes have a derogatory connotation.

Many adherents of traditional disciplines from cultures such as India, China, and elsewhere; a number of orthodox schools of Yoga, Tantra, Qigong, Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Aromatherapy and martial arts (the traditional Taijiquan families, for example), groups with histories reaching back many centuries in some cases, eschew the Western label New Age, seeing the movement it represents as either not fully understanding or deliberately trivializing their disciplines or outright distortions.

Much of the strongest criticism of New Age eclecticism has come from American Indian writers and communities. The Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality is one of the strongest statements of disapprobrium from traditional tribal religious leaders. Other Natives who have issued statements against "white shamanism" include Wendy Rose, Leslie Marmon Silko and Geary Hobson. A dominant Native American argument is that New Age shamans profit from tribal beliefs in a way that is fundamentally inconsistent with indigenous peoples' worldviews, while ignoring the communal aspects of indigenous peoples sacred beliefs and practices, such as among the Urarina of the Peruvian Amazon. In the US, part of the criticism leveled at the New Age movement has also been the perpetuation of Native racial stereotyping ("The Hollywood Indian"), cultural fetishism and the distortions of historic and anthropological insights into Native Americans' multiple and diverse ways of life and spirituality. This is abundantly clear when one contrasts the customary practice of ayahuasca shamanism among the Urarina, with New Age shamanism.

Language

Many adherents of belief systems characterised as New Age rely heavily on the use of metaphors to describe experiences deemed to be beyond the empirical. Consciously or unconsciously, New Agers tend to redefine vocabulary borrowed from various belief systems, which can cause some confusion as well as increase opposition from skeptics and the traditional religions. In particular, the adoption of terms from the language of science such as "energy", "energy fields", and various terms borrowed from quantum physics and psychology but not then applied to any of their subject matter, have served to confuse the dialog between science and spirituality, leading to derisive labels such as pseudoscience and psychobabble.

This phenomenon is additionally compounded by the propensity of some New Agers to pretend to esoteric meanings for familiar terms; the New Age meaning of the esoteric term is typically quite different from the common use, and is often described as intentionally inaccessible to those not sufficiently trained in the area of their use. See the following list:-

Medicine

See main article Alternative medicine

Many people with a New Age perspective also adopt complementary and alternative medicine. Some rely on New Age treatments exclusively, while others use them in combination with conventional medicine. This approach is regarded as completely compatible with New age belief in the unity of mind, body, spirit, and the emphasis on things of a natural origin. Some noteworthy New Age techniques are:

Some New Age writers have taken the belief that You create your own reality and applied it to disease with the conclusion that illnesses have a metaphysical origin and can be treated by a deep evaluation of long held negative emotional and spiritual attitudes. This has a parallel in the Christian notion that "it is done unto you as you believe." Notably, Louise Hay has published books containing lists of diseases and the associated negative belief, accompanied by the correcting positive belief. A cure may be sought by repeating the correcting positive affirmation. This approach has its origins in Christian Science. It has been criticised as seeming to blame the sufferer for causing the condition. The intent is to empower the individual so that he or she can change the thinking and therefore change the condition.

Some followers of New Age thought may also believe certain individuals have the ability to heal, in a similar way to the healing practices reported to have been used by Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament.

One benefit of New Age medicine's popularity, and its criticism of conventional medicine, has been to encourage many medical practitioners to pay closer attention to the entire patient's needs rather than just her or his specific disease San Francisco Medical Library. Such approaches, termed "holistic medicine", are now becoming more popular. Conventional medicine has recognised that a patient's state of mind can be crucial in determining the outcome of many diseases, and this perception has helped recast the roles of doctor and patient as more egalitarian.

Critics of New Age medicine continue to point out that without some kind of testing procedure, there is no way of separating those techniques, medicinal herbs, and lifestyle changes which actually contribute to increased health from those which have no effect, or which are actually deleterious to one's health. The National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, are at 2005 carrying out research on determining which of these practices may be useful in support of conventional medical practice.

See also

Portal:Thinking

Academic study of the New Age

Albanese, Catherine L. (1990) Nature Religion in America; From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age], University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London. ISBN 0226011461

External links


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