In the process of researching my award-winning book Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community I came across many studies, books and dialogues that contributed to my unpacking of New Age Spirituality. A major part of my research was to examine the widespread practice of “shamanic” identity theft and the appropriation of cultural and spiritual property from Turtle Island First Nations, which stems directly from the New Age World. Under the guise of self-development modalities and “transformational” or “enlightenment” themes, I began to see that a myriad of other questionable beliefs and practices have also transpired in the past 40 years, including:
- Delusional thinking,
- magical thinking,
- cult mentalities,
- conspiracy theories,
- reliance on urban myth,
- a misguided belief in a fin-de-siècle “ascension” or “golden age” myths,
- a misguided belief that somehow spiritual forces created our aspiritual materialistic society,
- living in a fantasy world,
- spiritual bypassing,
- solipsism, and
- perspectivism (assuming others share your worldview).
Also present in alarming proportions are:
- Guru adoration,
- preying on the gullible, the innocent and the mentally ill,
- deceiving and dissempowering gullible people by doling out readily-available information to keep them “on the hook” and center the New Ager as the Guru or spiritual authority,
- presenting dreams, visions, delusions and UPG (unverified personal gnosis) as fact,
- a prevailing attitude of spiritual materialism i.e. grazing at the “spiritual buffett” or shopping at the capitalist-driven “spiritual supermarket,”
- mistaking the acquisition of “spiritual tools” and “flavour of the moment” workshops for the spiritual path itself,
- a belief in white supremacy,
- the arrogance of cultural appropriation,
- ignorance of one’s own positionality from having white privilege and entitlement,
- ignorance of other ethnocultural groups (including those being appropriated from),
- the stereotyping and fetishizing of Indigenous people as the “exotic other,”
- a “holier than thou” complex that precludes any engagement with the political process or social justice,
- wacky theories,
- and wrong-headed universalist themes such as “we are all one.”
These are just a few of the many dysfunctions that continue to plague the modern New Age “spiritual seeker” experience!
Based on my unpacking, I have had to completely disassociate myself from New Age thought and practice. But to disassociate myself from those who still hold these beliefs and practices does not necessarily follow. At the same time that I intend to actively critique New Age Capitalism, I feel that my “new and improved” stance can be respected just as much as I can respect those who still practice these modalities. We continue to share common ground in uncolonizing, shifting the paradigm to ecological civilization, healing ourselves and the land, and protecting Earth Community. As adults, we can “agree to disagree” and have a dialogue about our mutual development as human beings, instead of severing our connections as friends, colleagues or associates. As an example of this mature behavior, Dixon Wragg in Resources for Independent Thinking wrote a scathing critique on New Age practice, yet he continues being great friends with the New Agers in his community, who still welcome him into their spaces even with his adversarial and alternate views.
If we can achieve this same kind of relationship I would be pleased – let’s continue the dialogue, because there’s lots to talk about!