Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Get Real About the New Age Movement
To start things off here, I will be up front about who will most likely NOT find this article interesting. If you have no belief in a spiritual realm, then this probably won't interest you. If you subscribe to one of the major world religions and you are happy with that explanation of God, life, the universe and everything, then what I will be discussing below probably isn't your thing. And if you're a conspiracy theorist looking for proof that the New Age movement is a vast Illuminati conspiracy, then this discussion will no doubt leave you disappointed. Rather, the audience this article is directed towards are those who are spiritually-minded, yet who are not satisfied with accepting and following one of the mainstream religious paradigms.
It's been a theme lately for me of coming across people who clearly do not fit into the mainstream spiritual viewpoint, yet are bashing the New Age movement. See the video “Goddess Workshops Exposed!” for a good example. The arguments against the New Age movement tend to be very generalized and cliché: the New Age is all about making money. It's all about manipulating people. It's all ungrounded and airy-fairy and lacking in substance. New Age people all have their heads in the clouds or else their heads in the sand, they won't look at the real negativity in the world and deal with it but just want to gaze at their crystals and talk to their imaginary friends from some other galaxy, etc., etc.
This is the popularized view of what the New Age movement is about. In this article, I hope to dispel this very simplistic conception, and explain why the New Age movement is something which those who lament the state of the world and the corrupted control systems of Earth—including the established political and religious institutions—should be celebrating, rather than disparaging.
First of all, it's important to understand that the concept of the New Age is by no means a new idea, invented by the hippies of the 1960s. Quite the opposite. In fact, it is without a doubt one of the oldest spiritual concepts in human history, and very likely goes deep into pre-history. The hippies were, of course, talking and singing about the New Age:
“This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius!” they proclaimed in the musical stage production Hair.
And they were right, literally.
At this time in 2014, depending on who you talk to, we are somewhere on the cusp of the Age of Pisces and the Age of Aquarius. Some say that December 21st, 2012 heralded the beginning of the Age of Aquarius. Others say it begins sometime later in this century. There's no specific agreed upon starting point, because the zodiacal ages are determined by the constellations in the sky, which do not have concise starting and ending points.
There are twelve of these ages, which correspond with the twelve astrological signs of the zodiac we all know. Each age is roughly 2,000 years long. The coming of Jesus corresponded roughly with the beginning of the Age of Pisces. Now, to give an indication of how old this conception of twelve zodiacal ages could be, the Sphinx in Egypt, which rests at the Giza plateau along with the Great Pyramids, may have originally been carved as a lion, and in fact be a symbol of the Age of Leo. The Age of Leo spanned from approximately 10,500 B.C. To 8,000 B.C.
The mainstream view of the Sphinx is that it is much younger than that, because the face resembles that of the Pharaoh Khafra, who reigned around 2,570 B.C. However, alternative Egyptologysts point out that the head on the Sphinx is quite small in proportion to the size of the body. They suggest that the Sphinx may have originally had the head of a lion, rather than that of a man. But a later Pharaoh, such as perhaps Khafra, then ordered that the lion's head be carved down to resemble his own face. Alternative researchers have also pointed out that the weathering at the base of the Sphinx appears to be evidence that the Sphinx existed during an extended period of heavy monsoon rains. This also does not go along with the theory that the Sphinx is only 4,500 years old, as the climate at that time was not one of heavy precipitation.
But, that is veering off into a different subject. The point is that the concept of a changing of the ages is an ancient astrological paradigm which goes back thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years. Every 2,000 years or so, we move into the next age.
And yet, this is actually not a purely spiritual or even astrological phenomenon. It is in fact firmly grounded in a real, proven cycle of time that is written in the cosmos.
The twelve ages of the zodiac correspond with a well-known, scientifically proven astronomical phenomenon known as the Precession of the Equinoxes. The Precession of the Equinoxes is a roughly 26,000 year cycle in which the stars (and thus the constellations) move through the night sky relative to one's position on Earth, one degree every 72 years. This period of 72 years, times 360 degrees, equals precisely 25,920 years in total or 2,160 years for each of the twelve ages. This very real astronomical cycle of the stars moving slowly through the night sky results in a different constellation, corresponding with one of the signs of the zodiac, being prominent for those 2,160 years.
It is commonly believed that this 26,000-year cycle (also known as the Great Year) is the result of a slight wobble in Earth's axis, which simply causes the perspective of the stars to shift ever so slightly throughout the ages. However, just to put another alternative theory out there in case you're interested in exploring this concept further, there is another hypothesis proposed by astronomer Walter Cruttenden, which is quite different. He theorizes and is researching the possibility that this Great Year of 26,000 years is actually caused by our solar system revolving around another star. In other words, our second sun!
The theory states that our entire solar system engages in a massive, highly elliptical orbit around another star, and that this is what is causing our shifting perspective in relation to the other stars. If this were true, then that period of time of 25,920 years could actually be incorrect. The reason being that this number is based on calculating the movement of the stars according to the present rate of shift as we measure the stars now. Whereas if we were engaging in an elliptical orbit around another star, then our speed through space would change as we neared this other star. We would speed up as we came closer to the star. And then we would slow down as we got further away from it. So in this case, the Great Year could possibly be more like 24-25,000 years. And if this theory were indeed true, it would mean that we would have a very literal Age of Light—during the time in which we were closest to this second sun of ours. But again, this is digressing from the topic at hand.
So with that information, hopefully I've established the fact that the coming New Age is very real. We are now moving from the Age of Pisces into the next Age of Aquarius.
So, let me ask you a question: how about that Age of Pisces? Was it good for you? We had the Dark Ages, the Crusades, women being treated as property and otherwise suppressed, the witch hunts, the spread of major religions exterminating pagan spiritual practices, colonialism spreading Christianity and European ideals around the globe while eradicating indigenous cultures, the rise of the British Empire dominating much of the world, World Wars, the Industrial Age...and finally, where humanity finds itself now, in an era of advanced technology but continuing wars, overpopulation, environmental degradation that threatens the life of our forests and oceans, dwindling resources, rising oceans and changing weather patterns wreaking havoc around the globe; all of which paints a bleak picture for Earth's future.
Many of us sense that something is seriously out of balance, and aren't satisfied with the mainstream culture—politically, economically, spiritually—and are seeking alternative ways of living which are more in harmony with our fellow human beings, between men and women, with animals and with the planet.
And so, as luck would have it, around 50 years ago people started coming up with those alternative ways of living and being. I say 50 years, because it was 50 years ago this year, 1964, that the Beatles came to America. This to me is a good starting point for the Great Awakening; though of course some could dispute that. But here's the point as relates to the New Age movement: prior to the 1960s, the spiritual and lifestyle perspectives and experiences that were available to people were extremely limited. For the most part, you had your choice of some sect of the dominant mainstream religion wherever you lived, whether it was Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism. Anything beyond that was likely a secret society meeting, or something else you probably wouldn't want your friends or family to have any inkling you were engaging in.
Now, I didn't just mention the Beatles simply because of their music; but also because of their impact on spiritual practices in the West. My mom made a statement sometime ago that pretty well sums it all up:
“The Beatles went to India, and then pretty soon we were all doing yoga!”
I've actually been to the ashram where the Beatles stayed in Rishikesh, India in 1968, in which they studied meditation, yoga and Hinduism with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi—and where they wrote some of the songs from my favorite Beatles album, the “White Album”. The ashram, which is actually a number of buildings spread throughout the jungle, is now abandoned and falling apart. But if you bribe the security guard with 50 rupees (about one U.S. dollar) you can get in and wander around the place, and imagine what a scene it must have been back in the '60s and '70s.
Now, yoga and meditation are of course thousands of years old. But yoga and meditation becoming a mainstream phenomenon in the West is a decidedly New Age phenomenon that came out of the hippie movement of the '60s, thanks to the Beatles and others. Many Christians (not all, of course) believe that yoga and meditation are evil. So if you practice yoga or meditation in the West, you can thank the hippies of the '60s for bringing these spiritual practices to otherwise Christian countries, where prior to this you wouldn't likely have been exposed to these disciplines.
My point is that what is classified as “New Age” needs to be broadened. The New Age movement is not limited to people worshipping crystals and channeling otherworldly entities. We are experiencing the dawning of the Age of Aquarius now, and one of the effects of this is that most likely there is a yoga class being offered somewhere near you. And a whole lot more than that. This was almost certainly not the case 50 years ago.
But that is just the smallest sliver of the spiritual and lifestyle possibilities that are being offered to people around the world at this time, as a result of the cultural revolution that started in the 1960s and has carried through to today, and which shows no sign of slowing down. I want to get more specific and personal in illustrating the wide spectrum of workshops, ceremonies, events and activities that are now available to people, which could be categorized as part of the New Age movement.
I'm going to outline briefly my own spiritual path and some of the things I've experienced along my journey which are part of this New Age phenomenon, and which have shaped my life in a major way. I'm going to list below the different spiritual events I've attended throughout my life, in order to put a more specific picture to the notion of “New Age events”. I'm also going to mention how much some of these things cost, to address the charge by many that New Age events are all just part of a big money-making scam. So, here we go...
In the fall of 1991 when I was 19, I was a student at the University of Alaska in Juneau and saw a posting on a bulletin border for an inner child workshop. I didn't have the money for the workshop, which was about $200. I believe that included room and board for a full weekend. I called my dad however and explained that it was something I was interested in attending, and he either loaned or gave me the money for it.
That workshop changed my life tremendously and set me decidedly on my spiritual path, causing me to dig deeper, search for more spiritual information and begin to focus my life within a spiritual context—which is precisely, in my view, what the world is lacking at this time, a more personal spiritual connection within of raising one's consciousness, awareness and vibration. This shift of consciousness then translates into how we relate with each other and with the outer world. Environmental degradation in the outer physical world, for example, is a result of spiritual degradation within.
In the fall of 1992 I started reading spiritual books of all sorts that I found at used book stores, including the shamanic works of Carlos Castaneda, and Robert A. Monroe's descriptions of his out-of-body adventures. These sorts of books were of course not available in any major way prior to the 1960s. And now, in 2014 as compared to1992, is a world of difference with entire bookstores devoted to spiritual reading on all types of alternative spiritual topics; plus of course everything that's accessible on the internet; as well as workshops, conferences, yoga festivals and more happening everywhere.
In the spring of 1993 I started attending a yoga class regularly, as well as meditating. At the time the cost of the class was just $3. Nowadays yoga courses are certainly more expensive. In the summer of 1993, I then went to my first Rainbow Gathering. I've been to thirteen of these gatherings over the past 21 years. Rainbow Gatherings are an alternative communal festival. They came out of the 1960s hippie movement and are decidedly New Age events, which combine a mish-mash of spiritual perspectives from Native American traditions to yoga and meditation, various body-work techniques, the use of psychedelics, sweat lodges, drum circles, music galore and lots of other things taking place. And, they're completely free. They are supported purely by donations given at will by those who attend. These events, in which people live peacefully together in nature and explore alternative ways of living on the Earth, would not be happening without the New Age movement taking place.
In both1994 and 1995 I lived and worked at Ananda Village, a yoga community in northern California. Ananda Village is based on the yogic teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, who came to America from India in the 1920s. The village however was founded by one of his disciples, Swami Kriyananda, during the 1960s as yoga was becoming more popular. In the winter of 1996 I went to a live channeling of the Pleiadians by Barbara Marciniak, at a Whole Life Expo in California. I volunteered at the expo, so that I got a free ticket. But otherwise I think it was around $10 or so to see each speaker. So, about the cost of a ticket to the movies, for quite a different type of experience. Maybe not your thing, or you think channeling is all outright faked. Well, the good news is that you don't have to believe in it or pay for it. But it's there for those such as myself who have a sense that they've lived previous lives, possibly on other planets, and are curious for more information in this regard.
Later that same year I would attend another Rainbow Gathering, participate in a free Native American prayer ceremony at the Four Corners monument, live on an organic farm and commune in Washington State, attend a logging protest rally in northern California (greater environmental awareness and activism is most certainly linked with the New Age movement), and participate in a weekend-long Buddhist meditation workshop.
In winter of 1997 I took part in a global meditation event while I was in Hawaii. In the summer of 1997 I went to Montana, where I spent the summer living and working at a commune founded by Solara, spiritual author of “The Star Borne” and other books. I attended another Rainbow Gathering, and then later that summer I lived in northern New Mexico with another spiritual author, Chris Griscom, founder of The Light Institute. While there I experienced a past-life regression session and participated in a fire walking ceremony. I then spent much of 1998 living on a communal farm in Hawaii. In 1999 I attended two more Rainbow Gatherings, one of which was in India, where I spent five months traveling around the country, practicing yoga and meditation, etc. And, the years since then have brought a wide assortment of other experiences in this same vein.
So here's the point: almost none of these experiences would have been available to me, or to others, without the cultural revolution of the 1960s, which would then evolve into the New Age movement. Yoga, meditation, tai chi, Buddhism, Sufism, Native American spirituality and other spiritual traditions from around the world, being practiced by those who came from Christian cultures, are all essentially part of the New Age phenomenon. The women's movement, the men's movement, the environmental movement, Rainbow Gatherings, communes, out-of-body experiences, past-life experiences, shamanic journeying, emotional healing, sexual healing, various body work techniques, greater political awareness and activism, alternative medicine, greater health awareness including the rise of health foods stores and organic farming, is all a part of the wider human movement towards greater awareness, personal freedom and choice which was brought about as a result of the cultural developments of the 1960s.
Just think of what was realistically available for humans to experience prior to fifty years ago. I am not saying that none of these things existed. Many of them did, in some form and to some extent—to a very limited extent. These types of experiences, perspectives and bodies of information were not available to the vast majority of people. The human experience was much, much more constricted. A lot has changed in fifty short years.
So my message to those who don't conform to the mainstream worldviews, yet are disparaging the New Age movement, is: Get real! What are you waiting for? What else are you asking for? Would you prefer that all these options weren't there for people to experience? Of course, you don't have to believe it all. I certainly don't. You don't have to experience it all. But at least these opportunities are available to you. And if something is not how you think it should be, or is missing altogether in your eyes, guess what? You can create your own addition, and add it to the mix! There are no limitations to what is allowed within the New Age paradigm, other than adhering to basic principles of peace, love and harmony with your fellow humans, animals and the Earth.
The New Age of Aquarius is upon us. That is a reality within the cycles of time that was conceived of before history as we know it even began. And we are in the middle of that transition now, watching before our very eyes as cultural norms and barriers of all types are being broken down and transformed. It's true of course, that the ideal world many of us desire to live in has yet to materialize. But remember, these developments take time. And yet, we have seen more cultural change within humanity in the past 50 years, than in perhaps the previous 500 or more.
The Age of Pisces was a tough one. I think we all can pretty well agree that we don't want to repeat that cycle of time; but instead want to do a better job at being human in the coming years and millennia. Information is power, and power is necessary in order to implement change. A New Age is now awakening, and humanity is responding in record numbers, with people all around the world hungering for greater access to knowledge from multiple sources that can help them understand themselves better and lead more sane, balanced lives.
There could hardly be more choices available to us now to work with. This is all part of the Great Awakening—which only appears to be accelerating. Whether or not you agree with it, you are in fact a part of the New Age movement. Because time stops for no one. The New Age of Aquarius will be here soon enough, whether you recognize it or not. Let's make it a more peaceful and loving age than the last.