I received a text from a buddy of mine the other day asking me "What's new?" This isn't someone I've really talked to much about my spiritual life, but figured if I'm going to be pursuing it more I might as well put it out there. So I responded, "Oh not too much, Just continuing to pursue the more spiritual side of life. If you know anyone looking for stuff like energy healings, like reiki, send them my way." He responds, "Sounds hippish, I'll ask around."
We then proceeded to make plans to hang out soon. :::Good, at least I didn't scare a friend away:::
His response though, "sounds hippish" -which I think he meant hippyish- got me thinking...again...about the labels used for this type of "stuff" and what they imply. I personally like the word hippie!
"Hippies sought to free themselves from societal restrictions, choose their own way, and find new meaning in life."
"Personality traits and values that hippies tend to be associated with are 'altruism and mysticism, honesty, joy, and nonviolence.'"
About a month ago, during the reception at my sisters non-denominational wedding, the rabbi who performed the service (an old family friend) came up to talk to me. My father had told her I was into New Age Spirituality and she wanted to hear all about it. We really didn't get to talk much because of the setting we were in, but when she said those words I immediately got somewhat defensive. I realized afterwards, the reason why was because those words came from my father and I could just hear him saying them with a sort of dismissive tone as if it was a frivolous thing. Whether that's actually how he said it or not, from my experience with him, that's how my own filters imagined him saying it. And I say this not to demean my father in anyway. He just doesn't know much about any of this spiritual stuff, nor does he really care too. Because of this, his perception of this spiritual stuff is what it is...more of an unknown then a negative thing I think.
I feel the term "new age" is thrown around a lot as a catch all phrase and people have different perceptions of and reactions to it. Many people have a very skeptical view and see it all as nonsense. Because of this perception, I think it actually deters people from even contemplating it...even though their beliefs would actually fit fairly well into the new age "label".
So, after doing some quick research, I discovered that I'm very comfortable with the term New Age. I even like the first paragraph Wikipedia says about it! I view it as a term for those who explore different beliefs and practices and takes from them what they resonates with. As long as the term doesn't have to be just associated with the 70's and can evolve with the passing of time, then I think it's a pretty great term!
One article I read had a list of beliefs held by most, but not all New Age followers. Even saying "followers" is strange because it's not like it's one group following one set of beliefs...but anyways, I thought the list was pretty interesting...
Monism: All that exists is derived from a single source of divine energy.
Pantheism: All that exists is God; God is all that exists. This leads naturally to the concept of the divinity of the individual, that we are all Gods. They do not seek God as revealed in a sacred text or as exists in a remote heaven; they seek God within the self and throughout the entire universe.
Panentheism: God is all that exists. God is at once the entire universe, and transcends the universe as well.
Reincarnation: After death, we are reborn and live another life as a human. This cycle repeats itself many times. This belief is similar to the concept of transmigration of the soul in Hinduism.
Karma: The good and bad deeds that we do adds and subtracts from our accumulated record, our karma. At the end of our life, we are rewarded or punished according to our karma by being reincarnated into either a painful or good new life. This belief is linked to that of reincarnation and is also derived from Hinduism
An Aura is believed to be an energy field radiated by the body. Invisible to most people, it can be detected by some as a shimmering, multi-colored field surrounding the body. Those skilled in detecting and interpreting auras can diagnose an individual's state of mind, and their spiritual and physical health.
Personal Transformation A profoundly intense mystical experience will lead to the acceptance and use of New Age beliefs and practices. Guided imagery, hypnosis, meditation, and (sometimes) the use of hallucinogenic drugs are useful to bring about and enhance this transformation. Believers hope to develop new potentials within themselves: the ability to heal oneself and others, psychic powers, a new understanding of the workings of the universe, etc. Later, when sufficient numbers of people have achieved these powers, a major spiritual, physical, psychological and cultural planet-wide transformation is expected.
Ecological Responsibility: A belief in the importance of uniting to preserve the health of the earth, which is often looked upon as Gaia, (Mother Earth) a living entity.
Universal Religion: Since all is God, then only one reality exists, and all religions are simply different paths to that ultimate reality. The universal religion can be visualized as a mountain, with many sadhanas (spiritual paths) to the summit. Some are hard; others easy. There is no one correct path. All paths eventually reach the top. They anticipate that a new universal religion which contains elements of all current faiths will evolve and become generally accepted worldwide.
New World Order As the Age of Aquarius unfolds, a New Age will develop. This will be a utopia in which there is world government, and end to wars, disease, hunger, pollution, and poverty. Gender, racial, religious and other forms of discrimination will cease. People's allegiance to their tribe or nation will be replaced by a concern for the entire world and its people.
So what's the point of all this? I'm not really sure. I guess I'm operating on the principle that a lack of knowledge leads to ignorance. By defining what New Age is, people can at least be looking at and talking about the same thing, not one person's perception of it vs. another.
Like with anything, it really comes down to people's perception and knowledge. If I say the words "catholic priest", there could be a variety of reactions. On one side of the scale the reactions can be loving and positive, on the other side...not so much. There are going to be people who define themselves as New Age Spiritualists who are operating on a very superficial level, however, there are others that might be doing some real soul searching and gotten into some real deep stuff!
Ultimately, I suppose I'm putting this out there because I'm attempting to define my own beliefs. I have my own perception of and more importantly my own experiences with what many would categorize as new age and I don't like that it has such a negative and flaky connotation.
(Disclaimer: In general, I foresee these posts to be mostly spiritual in nature.)