The term New Age refers to beliefs and practices that stem from or are part of the New Age movement, which began in the United States in the 1970s and flourished in the 1980s. This movement centred around the idea that spiritual exploration would ultimately lead to an era (literally a “New Age”) in which peace would reign throughout the world and social ills such as poverty, disease, and hunger would finally be conquered. Today’s believers do not necessarily know about the concept of a literal “New Age” but merely embrace the various beliefs that arose out of the spiritual practices of early members of the movement.
Many of these beliefs and practices are associated with the paranormal, including channelling, reincarnation, divination, psychic energy, angels or other spiritual beings, out-of-body experiences, auras, energy vortexes, the use of crystals for healing, and the conviction that there are no coincidences. Adherents of New Age beliefs, called New Agers, also typically express an interest in UFOs and aliens. In addition, many think that Atlantis and similar legendary civilizations once actually existed, along with magical beings like fairies and elves.
In regard to beliefs related to psychic abilities, spirits, and the afterlife, scholars have noted that the New Age movement and New Agers have much in common with the nineteenth-century Spiritualism movement and Spiritualists—which is no coincidence since it was a leading Spiritualist, Helen Petrovna Blavatsky, who first spoke of the literal “New Age.” In addition, just as nineteenth-century Spiritualists often endured ridicule for their beliefs, so too have New Agers, and in the early years of both movements, adherents formed their own communities where they could practice their beliefs openly. Centres of New Age practices include Big Sur, California; Boulder, Colorado; and Sedona, Arizona. In recent years, however, New Age beliefs have become so accepted by mainstream America that most New Agers no longer feel the need to isolate themselves. In fact, New Age is such an integral part of American life that large bookstore chains have sections exclusively devoted to New Age writings.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning