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Author Topic: The term 'New Age' and criticism  (Read 16518 times)
Waldfrau
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« Topic Start: January 24, 2009, 07:05:03 am »

I've experienced a couple of conversations where someone talked about subject x and another person said he/she finds x so very 'new agey'. I wonder what people mean by statements like that.


Is 'new age'/'new agey' a derogatory term like 'fluffy'? If people use it derogatory, what is it they mean by it? What do they critizise about 'New Age' exactly?

What kind of subjects are 'new agey' and what is not? Or is it a specific context that makes a certain subject 'new agey' while the same subject wouldn't be in a different context? So how do you recognize 'new age' stuff?

Do you think everything connected to 'New Age' in any way is bad on principle?


Btw, I don't know much about New Age myself. I'm neither a fan nor do I hate it. I'm just trying to understand conversations where the term pops up. Thanks for answering!
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« Reply #1: January 24, 2009, 07:17:27 am »

I've experienced a couple of conversations where someone talked about subject x and another person said he/she finds x so very 'new agey'. I wonder what people mean by statements like that.

Personally, I think it's an "us vs. them" response.  It's not meaningful, it's just knee-jerk - like the "we're not Satanist" response.  It's a way to draw lines and make "us" look better.
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« Reply #2: January 24, 2009, 08:19:06 am »

So how do you recognize 'new age' stuff?


Well I know it when I see it! Not very helpful I know  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #3: January 24, 2009, 09:15:06 am »


Speaking only for myself: "New-agey" is crystals, channeling, spirit work, animal totems, Reiki, and more--but it's those things *taken out of any context*. "Ooooh shiny!" I did work with crystals as a Wiccan years ago; there was a background taught with that work, and a framework in which to use it. Jane New-Ager doesn't necessarily have that background, she may have read a book that told her "use black tourmaline to absorb negativity" and now she's a crystal-worker. The appropriation of animal spirits is another "new-agey" thing that gets my goat (so to speak). For someone who works within a First Nations framework, I think it's highly appropriate. For me??? Not so much. Ja, I am very much drawn to otters, and every "what's your totem animal" internet quiz I take tells me that's my totem. Do I think that gives me the right to practice animal-spirit work? Um--no.

There's a certain "I'm so counterculture I'm so cool and you're not"-ness to "New-age" things, IMO. It's not so much about the beliefs, as the trappings--and that, ultimately, is meaningless and shallow, and not of much use in a spiritual/religious way.

(The above is the opinion of the writer and in no way represents the opinions of others here or elsewhere.)
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« Reply #4: January 24, 2009, 09:25:26 am »

Personally, I think it's an "us vs. them" response.  It's not meaningful, it's just knee-jerk - like the "we're not Satanist" response.  It's a way to draw lines and make "us" look better.

I think I'm going to have to disagree with you, Shad. I use it when I need it. Sort of like using the term "fluffy."

When I run into a Crystal Woo-Woo person, that term comes in very handy.
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« Reply #5: January 24, 2009, 10:10:55 am »

I think I'm going to have to disagree with you, Shad. I use it when I need it. Sort of like using the term "fluffy."

When I run into a Crystal Woo-Woo person, that term comes in very handy.

I almost agree with you, but I really dislike using derogatory labels on people, for any reason, b/c it ain't healthy, in my exp. For me, I mean. I don't care much what is healthy for the other person, unless it directly affects me in some way. So, for ex, it may be that Other Person believes she can talk to dolphins on the astral plane, and feels fine about not having any evidence of any kind to back that up, synchronistic, factual, or otherwise. I may suggest to her that it's a good idea that when we come up with these kinds of beliefs we thoroughly check them out in any way possible, ie secondary sources, divination from disinterested third parties, and making sure there is not a big ginormous ego attachment to the belief. But if she doesn't care what anyone says, she believes what she believes, then it's not my business, and the more energy I give it, the worse it gets. I have noticed that people who insist on holding beliefs that are really difficult to prove in any way tend to be very fearful and/or defiant. I don't think it's necessary for me to feed other folks' negative character traits.

I have a whole big thing about getting away from negative terms, though. I think they tend to polarize people and kill good conversations.
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« Reply #6: January 24, 2009, 10:37:53 am »



I personally find a lot of value in new age concepts, but like just about anything else it takes a bit of digging to get past the loud surface of 'cool and shiny' (not to mention profitable) that has accrued over time.

New Age isn't really new.  By my count, it's over a century old at this point, and started with 'social' examination of occult and esoteric subjects.  It's concepts are rather Victorian and 'anti-Victorian' at the same time, and it was one of the many reactions to the very straight-laced and proscriptive society it arose in.  It was a personal spirituality that did not rely on the religious views of it's time, and was not bound by the rather dour and depressing views of virtue and sin.  At the same time, it wasn't a new religion, and was not meant to cancel out the Christianity of its time - in most cases its practitioners and theorists were either Christian or Agnostic rather than any flavour of Pagan or Neo-pagan.

A lot of the way it is presented these days is a result of surface skimming and, as Starglade says, a certain amount of appropriation done without proper thought and with an annoying sense of entitlement.  It turned out to be really profitable for a while, and possibly even still, given the number of seminars and trappings being advertised all over the place.  If you take some of the buzz-words from ads and research them on their own you will get closer to the actual theories.  Crystals, vibrations, Ascended Masters, certain kinds of healing and protection - these have been given an air of the ridiculous over time and misuse. 

'Newage rhymes with sewage' and 'Nuage' tend to be applied indiscriminately to the whole classification. Part of it I think is knee-jerk reaction in the same vein as 'Christians stole our holidays' - New Age came first and made all the mistakes thoughtful Neo-pagans try to avoid.  The commercialization and bowldlerization the concepts underwent kind of stands as a warning.  Neo-pagans who seem too up in the clouds or who express certain concepts badly are told 'that's New Age, not Pagan' as a deterrent and start filing everything they 'aren't supposed to be' under that heading.

I sometimes think New Age, or at least the popular concept of it, is Neo-paganisms 'Adversary' in the same vein as the JCI religions have theirs.

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« Reply #7: January 24, 2009, 10:39:19 am »

Is 'new age'/'new agey' a derogatory term like 'fluffy'?

Yes, when I use it, it is in the same way like 'fluffyness'.
Like Starglade said an 'ooooohhhh shiny'-attitude and torn out of each and every context-thing.
ADM-stuff, Priestesses from Lemuria and so on Cheesy

I don't think it bad to choose something and incorporate it into your own path, though.
After all that is the way eclectics do it Wink

It can be a thin line between 'fluffy' and 'eclectic'.
Insofar Shad is quite right, that it can be a 'us' - 'them' thing.
I don't think any 'new ager' would think him-/herself superficial, it's the other people that judge us in one way or another.

(Sorry Starglade, just for examples sake Wink I'm definitely respecting your POV in this matter.)

The appropriation of animal spirits is another "new-agey" thing that gets my goat (so to speak). For someone who works within a First Nations framework, I think it's highly appropriate. For me??? Not so much. Ja, I am very much drawn to otters, and every "what's your totem animal" internet quiz I take tells me that's my totem. Do I think that gives me the right to practice animal-spirit work? Um--no.

This is really a good example. I work with animal spirits.
I don't see why I shouldn't have the right to do it, if they're willing to interact with me, just because of what is or is not in my genes.
(After all we all have our origins somewhere and I'm not using any native american framework for it.)

Well, Starglade could now name me fluffy or new-agey for this. (Hope not  Cheesy ).
And it is very well possible, that there are persons out there I would name new-agey for what they do as regards animal totems.

So what I'm rambling here about *lol* is that the personal POV matters a lot. Or how much you know about a person and the path they take.
(And that it is probably not nice to label people about just a tiny thing *lol* but we are human so we are not perfect  Wink )

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« Reply #8: January 24, 2009, 11:14:00 am »


I typically use the term (and this is in a broader context than in Pagan discussions) when someone's doing something flakey but harmless. Hanging random crystals around the house, burning random incense, seeing the random palm reader next to the pawn shop and cash-n-go -- the key word here being "random." It's not part of a coherent belief system, it's typically not pursued very seriously, just with a sort-of vague belief that these things might help something somehow someday. But it's not hurting anyone, they're not off the deep end, and at worst they're slightly out of touch with reality in a charming way. (I like my masseuses to be a little New Agey. I somehow feel cheated if there aren't crystals and Tibetan prayer flags and music with lots of chimes and dolphins on the wall.)

I generally think it's silly and often eye-roll-worthy, but it's in no way dangerous or harmful. Just silly.

Around here, if I said, "Have you been to the new store? It'd kind-of New Agey, but I think you'll like it," everyone would know what I meant. Or if I said, "Do you know Stephanie? She's sort-of New Agey, but I promise she won't try to read your palm." Or whatever. It's usually used as a descriptor for someone or something that's going to be a little flakey, and you may have to suppress your snark so as not to hurt someone's feelings. We put great stock in practicality around here, so warning something is impractical is fair warning so everyone knows to have fun and not spend a lot of effort being frustrated with its impracticality.
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« Reply #9: January 24, 2009, 01:45:56 pm »



The context I've always understood it in is that "New Age" involves an appropriation, by Westerners, of non-Western stuff.  As Marilyn says, it started in the Victorian era, with the expansion of the Empire to places like India; India was the "OMG so MYSTICAL" antidote to rationalist, mechanized Victorian culture.  A useful shorthand is that Neo-Pagans looked to the pasts of Western cultures, while New Age sorts looked abroad, to the East (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) and far West (First Nations people).  A good chunk of New Age concepts come from strains of Hinduism and Buddhism.  Some of it is harmless -- the Western craze for yoga, for example, begun with New Agers.  But some of it is not so harmless. 

New Age stuff tends to have far more potential to be actively offensive and downright racist, because it involves ripping stuff out of context from *still-living* cultures and people, people who are minorities in the West.  If you misrepresent, say, the beliefs of the Vikings or ancient Greeks, it's annoying and you'll piss off people who know something about history, but it isn't contributing to the real world problems of living people the way "plastic shamans" and the like do.   
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« Reply #10: January 24, 2009, 02:19:20 pm »


I used to work in a New Age store. There was mostly stuff pertaining to angels, crystals, UFOs, channeling, etc. There was very little, if anything, pertaining to witchcraft, Druidism, Wicca, Paganism in general, etc. And the words that fit our customers (and most of the people who worked there) were yours, Koimichra: flakey but harmless. These were the people who within 10 minutes of meeting you would tell you that the two of you spent a past life together as high priest and high priestess in the temple of Apollo on Atlantis. These were the people I would just smile and nod to and then say, "Oh, how cool."
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« Reply #11: January 24, 2009, 02:58:05 pm »

Is 'new age'/'new agey' a derogatory term like 'fluffy'? If people use it derogatory, what is it they mean by it? What do they critizise about 'New Age' exactly?

It certainly can be used in a derogatory manner, but more often, I see it used as a dismissive term, rather than a derogatory one.  Describing some-one's beliefs or character as "new age/new agey" is often used a way to dismiss their ideas and beliefs as invalid.  Like any spiritual path, there are some very fluffy and sometimes destructive people within the new age movement.  Unfortunately, many people view the entire movement based on those individuals, just as pagans often get viewed through a narrow lens by the general public.

Personally, I use the term new age in a much more positive way because I think the movement helped to expose the general public to alternative beliefs and spiritual paths.  I also know some very intelligent, decidedly non-fluffy people who label their spirituality as "new age" and I'd no sooner dismiss or insult them than friends walking other religious paths. 
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« Reply #12: January 24, 2009, 03:55:19 pm »

It certainly can be used in a derogatory manner, but more often, I see it used as a dismissive term, rather than a derogatory one.  Describing some-one's beliefs or character as "new age/new agey" is often used a way to dismiss their ideas and beliefs as invalid.

I guess to me that is the same thing as derogatory, pretty much. I was raised by flakey new age people, and I know how much fear, pain and confusion some of those folks are in. Certainly not all-there are plenty of just plain dumb people in every religious/spiritual persuasion, New Agers don't have a corner on that market, imo.
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  And the power of Earth,
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« Reply #13: January 24, 2009, 10:10:27 pm »

Is 'new age'/'new agey' a derogatory term like 'fluffy'? If people use it derogatory, what is it they mean by it? What do they critizise about 'New Age' exactly?

It can be derogatory, but it isn't always so. "New Age" is really nothing more than an eclectic spirituality formed by combining a self-selected selection of things like Christianity, Eastern religions, auras, reincarnation, crystal power, meditation, and so forth.  In this meaning, it isn't really any more derogatory than "Eclectic Pagan" is.

However, the "New Age Movement" has attracted a number of very public flakes and people whose main motivation seems to be to charge all they can for dubious spiritual services like weekend become a shaman training (and, of course, the folks flakely enough to pay for it and then run around proclaiming themselves a card-carrying shaman or whatever). This is all many people see of the New Age Movement -- the flakes and the money-grubbers -- so naturally the entire movement gets gets tainted by these most visible to the public elements.
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« Reply #14: January 24, 2009, 11:47:50 pm »

However, the "New Age Movement" has attracted a number of very public flakes and people whose main motivation seems to be to charge all they can for dubious spiritual services 

Speaking of which, have you seen the informercial for the so-called "Wicks of Wisdom"? I wasn't sure if I was allowed to post the website address here. They are nothing more than extremely expensive candle magick, like upwards of $300 for a candle with "essential oils." And there is no explanation on the website what these "oils" are made from. This is definitely a very dubious spiritiual service.
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