New Age Movement is extremely difficult to describe.
The term New Age was used as early as 1809 by William Blake who described a coming era of spiritual and artistic advancement in his preface to Milton a Poem by stating: "... when the New Age is at leisure to pronounce, all will be set right ...".
The author Nevill Drury claimed there are "four key precursors of the New Age," who had set the way for many of its widely held precepts. The first of these was Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), a Swedish scientist who after a religious experience devoted himself to Christian mysticism, believing that he could travel to Heaven and Hell and commune with angels, demons and spirits, and who published widely on the subject of his experiences. The second person was Franz Mesmer (1734–1815), who had developed a form of healing using magnets, believing that there was a force known as "animal magnetism" that affected humans. The third figure was the Russian Helena Blavatsky (1831–1891), one of the founders of the Theosophical Society, through which she propagated her religious movement of Theosophy, which itself combined a number of elements from Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism with Western elements. The fourth figure was George Gurdjieff (c. 1872–1949), who founded the philosophy of the Fourth Way, through which he conveyed a number of spiritual teachings to his disciples. A fifth individual whom Drury identified as an important influence upon the New Age movement was the Indian Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), an adherent of the philosophy of Vedanta who first brought Hinduism to the West in the late 19th century.
The term New Age was used in this context in Madame Blavatsky's book The Secret Doctrine, published in 1888.
A weekly journal of Christian liberalism and socialism titled The New Age was published as early as 1894, it was sold to a group of socialist writers headed by Alfred Richard Orage and Holbrook Jackson in 1907. Between 1908 and 1914, it was instrumental in pioneering the British avant-garde from Vorticism to Imagism. Orage met P. D. Ouspensky, a follower of Gurdjieff, in 1914 and began correspondence with Harry Houdini; he became less-interested in literature and art with an increased focus on mysticism and other spiritual topics; the magazine was sold in 1921.
Popularisation behind these ideas has roots in the work of early twentieth-century writers such as D. H. Lawrence and William Butler Yeats. In the early- to mid-1900s, American mystic, theologian, and founder of the Association for Research and Enlightenment Edgar Cayce was a seminal influence on what later would be termed the New Age movement; he was known in particular for the practice some refer to as channeling. The psychologist Carl Jung was a proponent of the concept of the Age of Aquarius.In a letter to his friend Peter Baynes, dated 12 August 1940, Jung wrote a passage: "... This year reminds me of the enormous earthquake in 26 B.C. that shook down the great temple of Karnak. It was the prelude to the destruction of all temples, because a new time had begun. 1940 is the year when we approach the meridian of the first star in Aquarius. It is the premonitory earthquake of the New Age ..."
Former Theosophist Rudolf Steiner and his Anthroposophical Movement are a major influence.
Neo-Theosophist Alice Bailey published the book Discipleship in the New Age (1944), which used the term New Age in reference to the transition from the astrological age of Pisces to Aquarius. Another early usage of the term, was by the American artist, mystic, and philosopher Walter Russell, who spoke of "... this New Age philosophy of the spiritual re-awakening of man ... Man's purpose in this New Age is to acquire more and more knowledge ..." in his essay "Power Through Knowledge," which was also published in 1944.
The subculture that later became known as New Age already existed in the early 1970s, based on and adopting ideas originally present in the counterculture of the 1960s. Two entities founded in 1962: the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California and the Findhorn Foundation—an intentional community which continues to operate the Findhorn Ecovillage near Findhorn, Moray, Scotland—played an instrumental role during the early growth period of the New Age movement.
As a result of the large-scale activities surrounding the Harmonic Convergence in 1987, the American mass-media further popularized the term as a label for the alternative spiritual subculture, including practices such as meditation, channeling, crystal healing, astral projection, psychic experience, holistic health, simple living, and environmentalism; or belief in phenomena such as Earth mysteries, ancient astronauts, extraterrestrial life, unidentified flying objects, crop circles, and reincarnation. Several New Age publications appeared by the late 1980s such as Psychic Guide (later renamed Body, Mind & Spirit), Yoga Journal, New Age Voice, New Age Retailer, and NAPRA ReView by the New Age Publishers and Retailers Alliance.
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Relevant New Age works include the writings of
- James Redfield
- Eckhart Tolle
- Barbara Marx Hubbard
- Christopher Hills
- Marianne Williamson
- Deepak Chopra
- John Holland
- Gary Zukav
- Wayne Dyer
- Rhonda Byrne
"This is a failure of the pulpit as much as of the pew to be clear about what is and is not compatible with Christianity and belief in salvation only through Christ," Mohler says.
Pew says two in three adults believe in or cite an experience with at least one supernatural phenomenon, including:
•26% find "spiritual energy" in physical things.
•25% believe in astrology.
•24% say people will be reborn in this world again and again.
•23% say yoga is a "spiritual practice."
"One hundred years ago, it would have been 'spiritualism.' They wouldn't have known what yoga was but might have been attracted to the 'New Thought' of the time," Mohler says.
Despite the late Pope John Paul II's warnings to explicitly avoid Buddhist and Hindu practices, Prothero says, "American Catholics are so used to not caring what the official church tells them on birth control, divorce, premarital sex and other points that they don't think they are un-Catholic when they believe and do what they please."
Combating syncretism has troubled popes for centuries, says the Rev. Dan Pattee, chairman of the theology department at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
The problem with borrowing spiritual ideas is that "the life-giving truth becomes compromised as we understand it as Catholics," Pattee says.
Despite Americans' overwhelming allegiance to someone they call God (92%), in Pew's 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 70% said "many religions can lead to eternal life," and 68% said "there's more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion."
Most (55%) say a guardian angel has protected them from harm, and 52% believe in prophetic dreams, according to surveys by Baylor University released in 2006 and 2008.