New Age Movements


New Age

New Age covers a range of beliefs and activities that have been widespread since at least the 1980's. They include belief in:

  • UFOs + Aliens
  • Astrology 
  • Crystals
  • Various forms of medicine and psycotherapy
  • Yoga/Meitation
  • Magic

There where over 2000 activities recorded in 2008.

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The themes of New Age

Heelas (1996)= says that there are two common themes:

  • Self-spirituality- New Agers seeking spirituality have turned away from traditional 'external' religions (such as Churches) and instead look inside themselves to find it.
  • Detraditionalisation- The New Age rejects the spiritual authority of external tradition sources (such as priests, sacred texts). Instead it values personal experience and believes that we can discover the truth for ourselves and within ourselves. 
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Variations within the New Age

New Age includes both 'world- affirming' and 'world- rejecting' elements. New Age beliefs vary from world- affirming elements, that help people succeed in the everyday outer world. As well as, world- rejecting elements that allow individuals to achieve enlightenment in their inner world. 

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The Appeal of the New Age

Drane (1990)= argues that part of the appeal of New Age beliefs is due to post-modernity. One feature of post-modern society is a loss of faith in meta-narratives or claims to have 'the truth'. Science promised to bring progress to a better world but instead it has given us war, genocide, environmental destruction and climate change. As a result of this, people have lost faith in experts and professionals such as Scientists and Doctors and they are disillusioned with the Churches failure to meet their spirtual needs. 

Bruce (1995, 2011)= argues that certain members in society are more drawn to new age movements. Modern society values individualism, which is also a key principle of New Age beliefs. It is also a particularly important value among those in the 'expressive professions' concerned with human potential, such as community workers or artists (these are more likely to turn to NAMs).

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The Appeal of the New Age

Heelas (1996)= New Age beliefs are based on individualism as it is about picking something that is spiritual and means something to you. He identifies 4 significant ways of how modernity might link to the appeal of the new age.

1. Source of identity- In modern society the individual has many different roles but there is little overlap between them, resulting in a fragmented identity. New Aage beliefs offer a source of 'authentic' identity.

2. Consumer culture- Create dissatisfaction because it never delivers the perfection that it promises (e.g. in advertising). The New Age offers an alternative way to achieve perfection.

3. Rapid social change- Modern society disrupts established norms + values, resulting in anamie (normlessness). The New Age provides a sense of certainity and truth in the same way as Sects.

4. Decline in conventional/organised religion- Modernity leads to secularisation, thereby removing the traditional alternatives to New Age beliefs. For example; in the USA, the New Age is strongest where Church going is at its lowest, in California.

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