What is New Age?

What is new age? New age is often called a ‘movement’ as it refers to new and alternative ways of thinking about our world. New age is about seeking a better understanding of ourselves, our world and how we fit into it. New age is about liberal mindedness, tolerance of all positive religious pursuits and questioning the way we live and what we believe. It’s about expanding our minds to beliefs and practices that are new, ancient, unexplored or just considered ‘alternative’. It is about looking at ourselves and our world as one rather than dividing the whole into separate entities and treating each as if disconnected. New age is about acceptance that no one society, religion or science holds all the answers to life and the universe. It is accepting of a variety of practices for increasing our awareness and consciousness, healing, thinking, believing, manifesting and living. In many respects it is about using what we already have within ourselves and our earth to find answers to the many problems and questions that affect society.

New Age is often linked to the Age of Aquarius because the Age of Aquarius is said to bring about changes associated with the characteristics of the Aquarian astrological sun sign. These characteristics include individuality, equality, communication, independence, humanitarianism and freedom. New age embodies the forthright, futuristic, free thinking and creatively intellectual virtues of the Aquarian sun sign. In this way, new age is an openness and tolerance of new ideas, spiritual beliefs and new ways of communicating with ourselves and our world. These characteristics have become more prominent and are influencing areas of our lives such as our spirituality, our approach to health, lifestyle and our relationship with our environment. New age has a central theme of a spiritual interconnectedness of all things and is the birthplace of the concept of ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’ which has gained popularity in recent years.

New age is not just about things that are new, however. New age is as much about a resurgence and revitalisation of the ancient tribal beliefs and practices which form the basis of so called alternative medicine such as herbalism, aromatherapy and energy healing. Many of the concepts made popular by the new age movement are borrowed from ancient wisdom and include many of eastern treatments that have been practiced for thousands of years. The foundations of alternative medicine have been practiced in many parts of the world by tribal peoples and are a very important part of their everyday lives.

It is not just in the area of health and medicine that new age borrows from past. The new age era is also about reassessing our values. For decades western culture has propelled us towards a world of immense materialism. We have processed and automated our lives so that everything we desire is at our fingertips. However easier this has made our physical lives on a daily basis, we seem to have less time for ourselves and our families. We have become slaves to a fast and stressful lifestyle – a lifestyle that is having a detrimental impact on our total wellbeing. The recent move towards work/life balance and the increased interest in such eastern practices as meditation, tai chi and yoga are helping us to return our inner peace and find refuge from the hectic society that we have created.

The new age movement has also been the driver for reassessing our relationship with our environment. In the spirit of a holistic approach, which the new age movement embodies, the new age movement has approached environmentalism from, not only the physical, but also from mindset and spiritual belief. From environmental activism which defended the environment as a living, breathing organism to the resurgence of paganism, heathenism and other earth based religions whose deities symbolize a reverence of the earth and all it provides for our wellbeing, the new age movement has helped us to recognize the importance of the earth and its other occupants. The growing understanding of the interconnectedness of our world provides for a realization that we cannot trash our environment and natural resources without jeopardizing our own health and wellbeing.

New age has been plagued by misconception and misrepresentation. A common belief is that new age is hocus pocus. This is understandable because new age does not set the usual boundaries such as we have set in science and organized religions. Also, as new age covers a huge area of disciplines and concepts, many of which require ‘faith’, it has been attractive to some charlatans looking to make a quick buck from the unwary. Where human need meets human greed there will always be unscrupulous players taking advantage of the situation. It is important, however, to look beyond this small portion of the new age movement because new age is an important aspect of our exploration, investigation, learning and human development. In many respects new age combines science with spirituality. As it does not set strict boundaries, new age allows for an open mindedness, instinct and creativity that pure science and religion do not.

With its freedom to experiment without judgement and explore without rules, new age grows and evolves at a fast pace. It often triggers and sets the groundwork for scientific exploration and eventual acceptance. Meditation is a great example of this. Once viewed in the mainstream west as a solely spiritual ritual, meditation has now been comprehensively studied by western medicine and is recognised for its many health benefits. Meditation is now even recommended by many western doctors as a method for addressing a range of ailments from high blood pressure through to depression. Aromatherapy and herbalism are areas of health study that have only in recent times gained accreditation in the west as legitimate health treatments. And who would have ever thought that the concerns of those greenies of the 60s and 70s would be ever be reflected in government policy.

So, what is new age? New age describes beliefs, concepts and practices that seek to achieve wellbeing for ourselves and our environment. Many aspects of the new age are about achieving a sense of peace and spiritual enlightenment. New age is free of fear, doctrine and political constraint. New age is a positive and vital part of western culture.

As time goes by new age will continue to provide alternative thoughts, practices and ways of looking at the world that promote understanding, peace and wellbeing.

Carolyn Donnelly owns Placid Moon, an online shop selling new age products and gifts. Placid Moon features a range of items including ritual and scented candles, meditation CDs, new age books, crystals and gemstones, rune stones, crystal balls, pendulums, tarot cards, essential oils, incense, hanging fairies, windchimes and many more items for ritual, altar and sacred space. Visit us at www.placidmoon.com

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