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Useful Notes / New Age

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The New Age movement more or less originated in the late 18th century, but took fire in the 1960s among hippies and other young idealists. It went mainstream in The '80s with the Catchphrase "Create Your Own Reality", the writings of Shirley MacLaine and her film Out On A Limb, which enshrined an assortment of Willing Channelers. The core of the New Age movement developed as an offshoot of Theosophy, particularly the syncretistic variation propounded by 19th century mystic Helena Blavatsky. It has some elements of Modern Spiritualism, but differs from that faith in numerous respects.

The term "New Age" itself may refer (there are several schools of thought on this) to the coming Age of Aquarius, which will result in massive changes for Earth and humanity. Exactly what these changes entail, and when they did/will take place, depends on whom you ask.

Likewise, their views on the divine vastly differ. Early New Age teachings focused on incorporating elements of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Gnosticism. More recent New Agers may be Christian, neopagan, deist, pandeist, pantheist, or even agnostic. Most often, their spirituality is a hodgepodge of concepts from various faiths, philosophies, and superstitions, for better or for worse. The word "syncretistic" is used by them a lot.

Many New Agers use terms that have been misappropriated from the scientific community, and due to the difference in the way they use these terms have more or less created a language barrier that can make it difficult to understand their philosophies at first glance. For example, where a scientist uses the word "energy" to mean "the potential to do work," New Agers tend to use it to mean an ethereal substance akin to vital force or chi.

Something you'll hear a lot about is raising one's vibrational level. The concept is that everyone's "energy field" (i.e., spirit/chi/lifeforce) vibrates at a certain frequency. Higher vibrations are supposed to enable your Psychic Powers and such nifty things. Generally speaking, prayer, meditation, eating right, and being kind and positive is supposed to raise your vibration, whereas unhealthy eating, focus on the material, and being negative lower it.

From the mid-1970s into the '80s and '90s, belief that some human beings were "Star People", related to or descended from well-intentioned alien visitors, was a common New Age speculation. Brad Steiger, who spent his life researching claims of paranormal phenomena, wrote a popular series of Star People books after meeting and marrying a woman named Francine who made such claims. note  There are now many "Star People" checklists online; Brad Steiger's original Starbirth Questionnaire is on this page along with some others.

Another concept you'll stumble upon sooner or later in the new age community is the concept of "indigo children" - that is, people who have incarnated on Earth specifically for the purpose of helping humanity to get its act together. Exactly how you tell who an indigo child is depends on who you ask, and the concept itself has been criticized heavily due to the "indigo traits" usually being overly generic or more likely being a sign of a developmental disorder, most commonly sensory integration dysfunction, dyslexia, or ADHD. The metaconcept of indigo children has branched out to include other types of souls with specific purposes, with equally shiny and colorful names such as "diamond children" and "rainbow children." Similar is the more recent concept of "crystal children", ostensibly the offspring of self-described indigos, and most commonly linked with autism spectrum disorders.

The dark side of the New Age movement is that it has attracted a glut of self-proclaimed gurus who appropriate and exploit aspects of other cultures' spiritualities, most glaringly Native American, and has pushed sufferers of chronic illness and cancer away from scientifically-proven (and therefore anti-nature and evil, in their minds) treatments, and into the arms of snake-oil salesmen and quacks peddling useless, and often harmful, "cures". Like neopaganism, it has also historically had issues with far-right infiltration, especially in the late 2010s with the rise of the QAnon movement that explicitly combines New Age themes and imagery with Satanic Panic conspiracy theories and Christian fundamentalism, as well as abusive or fraudulent religious movements, communes, and outright cults.

For uses of new age stuff in media, see the main entry.