New age philosophy is a movement that gained traction in the 70s. It was a philosophy born from love and light and centered around ideas and practices of spirituality, personal transformation, deep inner healing, and finding harmony in the world we live in. There is no tightly bound definition but most of the practices and beliefs are about committing to inner divinity and the body, mind, and soul. In this guide, we explore some of the elements of new age philosophy and look at the history, popular beliefs, practices, and rituals and answer some of those bright and burning questions.
New Age Origins and History
Despite New Age picking up speed in the 1970s, these seeds have been planted in mystical knowledge and teachings that have been explored since the 2nd century AD. From Gnosticism to Freemasonry, theosophy, and even elements of witchcraft, the roots of the new age movement go way back. These ancient belief systems have been strengthened and adapted over the years, with the 60s counterculture and the Human Potential Movement all playing a role in shaping modern understanding.
From romance poets and writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson to Joseph Campbell and even Madonna, the new age movement has snowballed a lot of religious movement elements under its banner over the years - from Hinduism to Buddhism, eastern philosophy, and Taoism, the origins of new age philosophy are tricky to pin down.
New Age Beginnings
Let’s take it back to the beginning. While the 70s saw a shift in the modern way we see new age thinking, the roots go a little further. The Swedish mystic Emanual Swedenborg was known for his ability to communicate with spirits back in the 18th century and the German hypnotist Franz Mesmer talked about animal magnetism running through the body. Both of these shifts in thinking began to blend science and religion and have been considered to be foundational in creating a platform for the new age to shine.
The next big venture in new age beginnings came from the start of the theosophical society - co-founded by Helena Blavatsky. This pulled on ancient influences from the Greek and neo-platonic philosophers and focused on building bridges of thought that linked west and eastern philosophies, beliefs, and practices. The three main functions of the theosophical society were -
- Forming a universal brotherhood
- Studying comparative religion, science, and philosophy
- Investigating unexplained laws of nature
Other notable influences that were woven into the fabric later would have been Carl Jung, Swami Vivekananda, and even the UFO religions that cropped up in the 1950s.
The new age worldview has been shaped by many influences, but the beginnings of what we now know as the new age movement found its footing in the 1970s by the American theosophist David Spangler. Spangler centered his beliefs around the coming of the Age of Aquarius and spiritual energy waves. He sparked the imagination of the likes of Timothy Leary who was emerging from leading sixties counterculture revolutions and psychologist Richard Alpert in the early days.
Richard Alpert visited India and found enlightenment and returned to the US as Baba Ram Das. He moved away from the hallucinogenic elements and centered his movement around a more traditional spiritual belief system and practices that had inspired him in the east. There was also an emphasis on community which meant that new-age inspired bookstores began to open up. Baba Ram Das was also known as a channeler and a strong believer in using crystals and other transformational tools as part of the practice.
New age philosophy is a blanket of beliefs, ideas, practices, and philosophies and so many different strands have been threaded into the mix. Pulling on big think holistic ideas of the cosmos, channelling, self-healing, and new age thought and science, the building blocks that have gone into new age philosophy include theosophy, spiritualism, Buddhism, Hinduism, astrology, folk religion, Christianity, Sufism, Judaism, Sikhism, esotericism, idealism, and a whole lot more.
Modern New Age
In the modern world and beyond the 20th century, the new age has adapted and shifted to be more aligned with the times we live in. After a lull in the 1980s, the concept and practices have started to pick up speed again as people seem to crave something more in our modern world. From tarot to crystals, reiki and herbal medicine, new age practices show up in our everyday 21st-century landscape and are becoming much more mainstream.
Research and surveys have even shown that as many as half the US population had turned to alternative healing techniques often associated with new age philosophy such as homeopathy and naturopathy or some element of self-healing. Even modern-day medicine and scientists are opening up to alternative techniques and the value of meditation, acupuncture, aromatherapy and other practices that are linked to eastern healing.
Beliefs and Practices in New Age Spirituality
Beliefs and practices in new age spirituality are centered around love, harmony, holism, and deepening self-awareness and development. These are the threads that bind them all. Throughout history and even in the more modern vernacular, new age spirituality can get a bad rap or be seen as woo-woo, weird, and with little base in solid science and reality. Because of the lack of academic and scientific research in the mainstream, it has also not been a medium that has been taken seriously.
But, emotionally, spiritually, and physically spirituality and new age beliefs and practices hold a lot of weight and can truly elevate the life of the individual and the collective. By nurturing a sense of self-awareness, thinking beyond the confines of what we perceive to understand, and when looking for ways to connect the body, mind, and soul, there is so much good energy to come from all of the above. We take a look at the core beliefs of new age spirituality and the rituals and practices that build on these beliefs.
There are many ideas and beliefs that make up the structure of new age philosophy and not all will be taken on board by each person who considers themselves a follower of new age spirituality. From crystals to sacred nature, planetary alignment, ethereal places and beings, and simply a rejection of tradition in favor of divination and destiny, we take a look at some of the core beliefs connected to new age thinking.
Spiritual self and spiritual consciousness
The belief that we are each a spiritual individual and each on our own spiritual journey is a big part of new age philosophy. This is why the new age philosophy also has strong ties with self-development and self-growth practices. Even though there is a deep-held belief about the spiritual self and spiritual consciousness, this also folds into the bigger picture of helping elevate the collective existence.
Mysticism can be referred to as having an experience or connection of the absolute or the divine. It has different roots in different religions ranging from the experience of zen or nirvana in Buddhism to shamanic experiences with spirits, dreamwork, and receiving messages from other realms.
Rejection of tradition
New age philosophy tends to reject the doctrines and texts of more traditional religions and instead of looking to hierarchical religions, they decide to pursue the answers and a spiritual sense of purpose through their own individual pursuits.
There is a belief in new age philosophy that we are energy and that we are also so much more than a body. When we die, this means that while our body may be gone, we can come back into the world in another form.
Belief in divination and destiny
New age thinkers may also believe in divination and destiny - understanding that we all have a certain fate or predetermined path to take. This can also link to belief in past lives and enhances practices like tarot and fortune-telling.
Another common belief in new age philosophy is the celebration and understanding that nature is sacred. This dates back to ancient pagan rituals and plays into celebrations around the time of the solstice and the change of the seasons. This may also play into dietary choices and the belief that all life is sacred.
The study of celestial bodies and their movements impacting our own body, mind, and soul is another popular element of new age philosophy. By reading the stars and the planetary positions, new age thinkers may believe that this has an ever-changing impact on the natural world and our human behavior too.
A holistic approach to health takes into account the whole of the person's inner and outer landscape when it comes to complete wellbeing. This means looking at how the body and the mind affect each other and how alternative therapies can bring wellness. For example, aromatherapy, herbs, manipulation and touch rather than relying on pharmaceuticals.
There is a belief that the body has seven spinning discs of energy and that you are at your best in terms of body, mind, and spirit when these are open rather than blocked. As chakras can commonly become blocked, this can impact our overall health and wellbeing which is why chakra therapies like crystals and reiki can help remove blockages and keep us open.
New age thinkers may also believe in ethereal beings like angels, spirit guides, spirit animals, ancestors, and other entities.
New Age Rituals
There are many different new age rituals and practices but there are some that are considered to be more commonly practiced than others. You may even participate in some of the rituals without even realizing the strong link with new age philosophy and thinking. Of course, many of these rituals have roots in ancient spirituality and other religions too.
Meditation is a practice of mindfulness where the individual focuses on clearing the mind so they can sit in a deeply relaxed state. This can lead to insights, a sense of harmony, higher connections and less stress.
Yoga is an ancient discipline that brings together philosophy, movement, breathwork, and meditation for complete body and mind wellbeing. There are many different branches and kinds of yoga but it stems from northern India as far back as five thousand years ago.
Using crystals for healing and balance is an alternative therapy or medicine practice that calls on the powers, vibrations, and energies of semi-precious stones, minerals, and gems to bring balance, clarity, and healing to the body, mind, and soul. As crystals have unique frequencies and high vibrations, they can be used as tuning forks to help tune the body and bring harmony and stability to the often unstable and fluctuating environment that surrounds our human selves.
The moon is one of our great constants in life and like astrology, there are new age spiritual beliefs and rituals around the lunar cycles. This can be in the form of full moon celebrations, manifestations around the moon, creating sacred spaces to honor the moon, and using empowerment spells in accordance to lunar changes.
Energy healing is based on the belief that energy flows through the human body and that by using holistic methods to balance and flow, it can lead to healing and overall well being along with reducing the effects of anxiety and chronic issues too. In this practice, energy healers can channel universal life force energy to bring flow and vitality where it is needed. Energy healing can work on a physical basis but also on an emotional and spiritual level.
Mushrooms and ayahuasca
Hallucinogenic substances have been used in rituals and ceremonies for more than a millennia. There is a lot of scientific weight and serious studies around the healing benefits of mushrooms to help treat depression and other mental health ailments. Ayahuasca is also used by traditional healers in South America to deliver profound spiritual insights and understanding of the self.
Tarot cards, palm readers, fortune tellers and other divination methods - are also common practices within new age philosophy and thinking. Tarot cards and divination have also been around for centuries, with the tarot itself dating back to the 15th century. For those who believe in divination and destiny and connections with spirit guides and other beings, physic readings can be valuable in providing guidance, introspection, comfort, and healing.
Sexual rituals can also form a part of new-age practices. This can be more aligned with tantric practices that may have developed from Buddhist and Hindu practices or it could be more ceremonial approaches that may come from pagan roots.
New age philosophy is such a sprawling topic and so broad that it can be difficult to pin down. The overarching themes are that new-age thinking centers around love, healing, spirituality, and seeking answers without turning to traditional churches and religions. Some people may find that they practice new age rituals or share beliefs but don’t consider themselves to be a part of any new age groups or to even have new age ideas at all. Others may feel they are wholly new age and it forms an essential part of their life experience.
There is no wrong or right way to share in new age philosophy and as it's a way of thinking that puts the individual into the center of it all, your own experience is unique and completely valid. Maybe you practice yoga every now and then or are drawn to the healing nature of crystals, whatever element calls to you, we are all about finding and following those silver threads that deepen our time here on earth and lead to unlocking inner doors.