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The self is the final authority

At the heart of the New Age lies a novel idea about truth. Most of us suppose that some things are a matter of opinion or taste. “I can't stand country music” is a statement of taste. But we suppose that there is a vast area of knowledge that is not a matter of opinion. Either the Earth is flat or it isn't and whichever it is has got nothing to do with what I think about it.

The New Age is unusual in the status it gives to each person. New Agers cannot ask: “Do crystals have healing powers?” They have to ask: “Do crystals work for you?” At Findhorn, the oldest and largest New Age com­munity in Europe, they have an interesting rule: you can only make what they call 'I statements'. When you are discussing some­thing, you are free to say “I think this” or “I feel that”, but you are not allowed to announce: “It is the case that” because when you do you are claiming that these views have some special authority.

So, there is no single truth, no authorit­ative knowledge: there is only what works for you and that might not be the same as what works for someone else. If you want to believe that we all have a personal angel, well, that's fine, because that is what works for you. If you want to believe the pyramids were built by spacemen, well, that's your truth.

New Agers suppose that there is no authority higher than the individual. Of course, we can learn by reading books and listening to great teachers, but the final arbiter of the truth is you. Personal experi­ence is the only test that matters.

The global cafeteria

Go to a conservative Baptist or Catholic church and you will be told: This is the truth. Here is the checklist of the ten things that you must believe and the ten things you must do to placate God. But go to the “Mind-Body-Spirit” convention, held every year in London, and you will be confronted by an enormous array of belief systems, therapies and tech­niques for attaining enlightenment.

A good illustration of the range on offer is provided by the publisher Element, which offers a popular series of books: The Elements of.... In the series are: The Elements of — Alchemy, Astronomy, Buddhism, Christian Symbolism, Creation Myth, Crystal Healing, Dreamwork, Earth Mysteries, Peng Shui, Herbalism, Human Potential, Meditation, Mysticism... and so on.

Nobody is pointing out that if you take Celtic Christianity seriously you cannot also believe in Buddhism. New Agers are relat­ivists. They no longer believe there is just one truth. Many apparently incompatible things can all be true at the same time.


Most versions of Christianity suppose that if you obey God you can hope for a happy and long life but that was never the main point and you could not take it for granted. You obeyed God because the alternative was eternal damnation. A good job, a happy marriage or an illness cured were accidental side-benefits. If God decided not to improve your life, so be it. In the New Age, self-improvement and self-gratification are not accidental by-products of glorifying and obeying God, they are the whole point. Most New Age rituals and ideas are deliber­ately therapeutic. They are intended to make you more successful, healthier and happier


Ö Task 6. Read the part “How New Age beliefs fit the wider society” to trace the reasons of the popularity of this religion in Great Britain. Try to discern direct sociological explanations to the key issues of New Age finishing these logical connections. Use the correct linking words to present your ideas:

· each person is a relativist -- …

· the concept of the truth -- …

· freedom to choose -- …

· the personal concept of self-improvement -- …

Date: 2016-03-03; view: 1328

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UNIT 2. Sociology of Religion: Spirited Away? | How New Age beliefs fit the wider society
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