I am not sure if having access to everything new age on the internet is helping or hurting our efforts. There are some gems to be found that give true enlightenment but there is also a lot that is false, poorly offered or misleading. So I found this article that talks about this situation.
Here is an excerpt of a very dense article:
Close your eyes, and envision a glowing crystal suspended in infinite space. Now breathe in slowly, counting backwards from 10. Energy pulses along the interstices of the crystal. Exhale, and imagine a second crystal, precisely like the first – then a dozen, a hundred, 100,000 crystals multiplying into an infinite void. And 100,000 dream catchers. And semiprecious stones inscribed with chakras. And ‘Coexist’ bumper stickers, Alex Grey posters, Tibetan prayer flags, wellness magnets, and ionising Himalayan salt lamps.
Now open your eyes and imagine how much they all cost.
It’s easy to scoff at the totemic kitsch of the New Age movement. But it’s impossible to deny its importance, both as an economic force and as a cultural template, a way of approaching the world. The New Age is a powerful mixture of mass-market mysticism and idealistic yearning. It’s also, arguably, our era’s most popular ex novo spiritual movement, winning adherents with a blend of ancient wisdom traditions, post-Enlightenment mysticism and contemporary globalisation that is as nebulous as it is heady.
Even scholars who have spent years studying the New Age movement disagree about what precisely it is. I would argue that if there is one thread that binds together the various New Age movements, it is that they represent a resurgence of magical beliefs in a modern world supposedly stripped of them.
A solemn Englishman wearing a faux silver circlet, a green cape and a white knight’s doublet beats out a martial rhythm on bongo drums. He stands in a circle alongside a dreadlocked youth with a guitar and an older woman leaning on a wooden staff. At the center of the circle, a regal, snowy-haired environmental activist and former biker named Arthur Uther Pendragon anoints a kneeling man wearing face paint. The members of the circle welcome the newest druid of 2014.
It’s the summer solstice at Stonehenge, one of the epicentres of the Neo-Druid movement. The robed crowds that gravitate to Stonehenge on important dates in the lunar calendar see themselves as upholding ancient, pre-Christian rites. Despite a falling out with the leaders of the Druid Council, Arthur Pendragon remains one of the movement’s most charismatic leaders. (Not long ago, he anointed Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols as a bard of his breakaway order, the Loyal Arthurian Warband.)
In Pendragon’s earlier life, he was a working-class lad called John Timothy Rothwell from Yorkshire. After stints in the British Army and as the leader of an outlaw biker gang known as the Gravediggers, he experienced a spiritual awakening in the early 1980s and changed his name by deed poll in 1986. Pendragon began to regard himself as the reincarnation of King Arthur, even going so far as to buy the sword used as a prop in the film Excalibur (1981). A self-declared ‘English eccentric’, he and his former colleagues in the Druid Council proudly lay claim to a tradition of pagan practice that stretches back five millennia.
Folklorists and anthropologists have long sought to reconstruct pre‑modern magical practices – Gaelic charms, prayers to mother goddesses, bacchanalian rites – that resonate on an emotional and spiritual level, even if many of their details remain contested. Perhaps the value of these claims to unbroken tradition lies not in their factual accuracy, but in their ability to instill a sense of empathy with the deep past.
As the historian Paul Kléber Monod has pointed out in his book Solomon’s Secret Arts (2013), the Enlightenment was obsessed with the occult. From Isaac Newton (whom the British economist John Maynard Keynes called ‘not the first of the age of reason’ but ‘the last of the magicians’) to the secret societies of the Rosicrucians, the Freemasons and the Bavarian Illuminati, we find a culture simultaneously obsessed with attaining a perfect mastery over nature and the universal patterns pervading all spiritual traditions. Monod told me that he believes there is a ‘direct link’ between these occult movements of the late Enlightenment and the New Age movements of the present day.
But tracing that link takes us into shadowy territory: the vast metropolis of Victorian London, a hub of empires that pulled a variety of spiritual seekers into its fog-shrouded orbit. The figures involved in the creation of a more formalised New Age movement – people such as Aleister Crowley, Madame Blavatsky and George Gurdjieff – rarely saw eye to eye. But one thing they had in common was a mystical conviction that the world on the cusp of the 20th century was about to undergo an epochal change. They were right.
The members of the Theosophical Society that Blavatsky co-founded in New York in 1875 regarded their work as another manifestation of the march of scientific and technological progress, but they also believed they were tapping into supernatural realms of experience. ‘There is a hidden side to life,’ wrote Annie Besant and C W Leadbeater, both members of the Society, in their book Thought-Forms (1901). ‘Each act and word and thought has its consequence in the unseen world which is always so near to us, and that usually these unseen results are of infinitely greater importance than those which are visible to all upon the physical plane.’ Although they were writing here of invisible auras produced by music or emotional states, the authors could just as easily have meant Sigmund Freud’s notion of the subconscious, or a young PhD student named Albert Einstein’s work investigating the invisible medium of the ‘luminiferous aether’.
Science and technology went hand in hand with the dawning of the New Age. It’s no coincidence that beliefs about alternate worlds and invisible forces coalesced at the same time that telegraph cables and radio waves began to encircle the globe. Late Victorian London was the centre of this global technological network, but it was also the home to an emerging group of bohemians who tapped into these new technologies even as they reacted against them.
Is the New Age a mere cultural fad, a set of aesthetic signifiers and intellectual fashions that will fade as a societal force? Certainly, one breed of New Age aficionado seems destined to age out of 21st-century society. These are the types that the English novelist Edward St Aubyn assembled for his satire On the Edge (1998), which narrates the adventures of 12 spiritual seekers on the road to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, with a blend of bemused horror and empathy. The hapless protagonists – Crystal, Krater, Stash, Jean-Paul, and the rest – are undoubtedly modelled in part on St Aubyn’s mother Lorna, an Anglo-American heiress who retreated from family tragedy by converting her French château into a New Age institute. But if the crystals-and-auras guise of the New Age has begun to take on a distinctly vintage character, this does not tell the whole story.
Take Silicon Valley in California, which began with the skinny-tie IBM engineer aesthetics of the 1950s but began to acquire its contemporary contours thanks to the LSD-inflected eclecticism of the 1970s. From Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth Catalog to the holistic take on computing promulgated by an India-roaming psychedelic enthusiast named Steve Jobs, elements of the New Age counterculture have been encoded in the DNA of Silicon Valley almost from the beginning.
Already in 1941, when T S Eliot versified in Four Quartets about Londoners who try ‘To communicate with Mars, converse with spirits/ To report the behaviour of the sea monster/ Describe the horoscope, haruspicate or scry… fiddle with pentagrams/ Or barbituric acids’, the line was blurring. The esoteric fringes of modern science were becoming entanged with ancient traditions such as astrology and the Tarot. For Eliot, a former dabbler in Blavatsky’s Theosophism who by this time associated true religious profundity with the Catholic tradition, these magical practices were all manifestations of a superficial spirituality, the ‘usual/ Pastimes and drugs, and features of the press’.
Eliot was on to something in that final phrase. Technologies of mass communication allowed the various beliefs that coalesced under the New Age banner to establish themselves as popular alternatives to traditional religion. With such metrics of allegiance to organised religion as churchgoing and tithing in decline, New Age eclecticism (amplified by radio, newspapers and eventually the internet) emerged as a kind of modern magic. Weber might have been right that the rise of modernity required the death of the enchanted world. But in that sleep of death, what dreams may come?