Throughout the 20th century there were numerous people who felt called to a new and, they thought, higher form of spirituality than was offered by traditional religion. Often they would be inspired by Theosophical or Eastern ideas and frequently they, or someone associated with them, would be psychic, perhaps receiving messages from a spiritual source through the method known as channelling. These messages would speak of love and brotherhood, and talk of a dawning new age ruled by the astrological sign of Aquarius when all men and women would live together in peace and harmony.
Some people went off to find Eastern gurus, many of whom appeared from the 1960s onwards. They had been there before but not in such numbers. A question of market forces, perhaps. There was a genuine thirst for spirituality but, it must be said, much of it was self-absorbed. Everyone was looking for something. Everyone wanted something. Materialistic consumers became spiritual ones. Leaders arose to fulfil the demand and they were usually charismatic people but, even if sincere to begin with, they often succumbed to the love of power that is practically always associated with the founders of spiritual cults. That, and uncommitted sex which generally makes its way into supposed gardens of Eden with predictable results.
I have a take on this which is the subject of this post. There was an unleashing of spiritual force from higher planes over the course of the last century. Human beings reacted to this in a multitude of different ways according to their temperaments and mindsets. You might even say, according to their level of spiritual evolution. Some reacted on a political level, some on an artistic one and some on a spiritual one. But mostly the reaction was contaminated by the ego. Some materialised the spiritual impulse, some were unable to handle the creative power they sensed and it over-stimulated aspects of their lower nature. Some were inspired to take to the spiritual path but did so in a way that brought true religion down to a psychic or occult level which is that of the creation rather than the Creator. The inner creation (higher planes) is still the creation. Just because something is not physical does not mean it is spiritual. And some simply sought greater freedom for themselves, seeing this as a measure of their developed humanity.
In the spiritual world everything depends on motive, on purity of heart, but the majority of New Age enthusiasts did not have pure hearts. They talked of love but more often practised sentimentality. I was never personally interested in any form of New Age spirituality as a partaker but I was interested to the extent that, in many ways, it appeared to tread the same path I did. I wanted to try to understand it because, from the outside, it did seem to say a lot of good things. But actually it didn't really do that. It talked a good spiritual game but it tended to the shallow and self-preoccupied. Many people involved in it were sincere but naive. Many more were just spiritually greedy. Few had genuine love of God and few had any real interest in Christ other than as one among many enlightened souls.
So was the New Age a stage in awakening spirituality, something that could be built upon and developed later, or was it a diversion of real spirituality into psychic channels? I would say it depends on the individual. As a movement, I have no doubt that the latter criticism is correct but each person, who is drawn to New Age type spirituality has the chance to move on to something more serious, and I am sure many did. I am equally sure many did not and the reason they did not was to do with motive. Were they genuinely seeking God or were they interested in the spiritual path for reasons to do with the unreconstructed lower self? Would they, in traditional terms, be willing to renounce the world, the flesh and the devil, or did they want to take these things, or some parts of these things, with them on their spiritual journey? It really does all come down to motive.
There is a lesson in this for all of us for, make no mistake, we all share the same tendencies to spiritual greed and shallowness.This is why constant self-examination is an important aspect of the spiritual path. We don't need to be thinking of ourselves all the time but we do need to look at our hearts and try honestly to see what is there. What if Jesus knocked on your door and asked you to give him a report on your spiritual state? What would you tell him?