New Age Movement

Defining the New Age Movement is no easy task. As a social force, it is not identified by a particular creed or single authoritative source book though, there are many New Age source books that offer authoritative explanations. The most helpful way of defining the New Age Movement, and perhaps the most accurate, is to see it as being a "network" of organizations or, to coin the phrase of two New Agers, Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps, a metanetwork of organizations that are autonomous, yet bound together. "Networks are composed of self-reliant and autonomous participants-people and organizations who simultaneously function as independent 'wholes' and as interdependent 'parts.'"

Despite the many factors that distinguish groups within the network, the common themes that bind them are as follows:

  1. MONISM. The New Ager believes that the plurality in the cosmos is derived from an ultimate and single source. All diversity flows out from a uniform and divine energy. In The Turning Point (1982), New Age author and physicist Fritjof Capra attempts to point out that the basic malady of the human race is that it has been unable to discern the basic unity of all reality. Monism quite naturally leads to,
  2. PANTHEISM: For New Agers, "God" is an ultimate principle that is identified with the universe. God is all and all is God. The only quest then is for humanity to discover and tap the knowledge of the divine that resides within each person. Separation from God is separation from a conscious or psychological cognition of divinity that resides within the entirety of nature. As Capra hinted at above, the , movement of history therefore must be a movement or motion toward cognition of the divine. Therefore, every person must choose a SADHANA, or path, through which he or she will undergo a transformation that will eventually yield such knowledge of the divine. However, for many, this sadhana may require more than one lifetime to fulfill. Therefore, the New Agers believes in,
  3. REINCARNATION AND KARMA, concepts derived directly from Hinduism. Virtually all New Agers embrace the notion that good and bad karma will result in retributive justice (punishment or reward) as persons are cast on the wheel of rebirth. Belief in reincarnation furnishes an alternate explanation of the problem of evil to that of Christianity with its concept of HELL and everlasting damnation to the unrighteous.
  4. UNIVERSAL RELIGION. Since discovery of the inner divinity is the ultimate goal of the New Ager, and because monism is the basic theological framework on which the New Age is based, there is really only one religion. All diverse religions of the world are simply alternate paths to the same goal. As there are many trails that lead up a mountain toward the peak (some difficult, others easier), each trail in the end yields the same result, the reaching of the summit. The Universal religion is a mountain with many paths, or sadhanas. No one path is the only correct path.
  5. PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION. Whichever path an individual chooses, several goals are on the horizon. The first is "personal transformation." This entails undergoing a person mystical or psychic experience that will usually result in a paradigm shift from an "old world" belief system to a realization of "New Age" or "Aquarian" beliefs. The first step in this transformational process is to embrace a monistic worldview. Again, this does not come through cognition of propositional truths or creedal formulations, but rather, through mystical experience.

Extracted from, 'Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religious and the Occult', by George A. Mather and Larry A. Nichols, Zondervan Publishing House, 1993.

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