New Age Spirituality (NAS) is steadily gaining adherence in the United States. Notably the comparative religion scholar Ron Rhodes explains that “Sociologists at the University of California—Santa Barbara estimate that as many as 12 million Americans could be considered active participants in the movement, and another 30 million are avidly interested” (1).
There are several reasons as to why NAS has grown, and will grow, so much. Firstly, I believe that humans are truth seeking creatures trying to make sense of their existence. People want their lives to have meaning and one way in achieving this is to pursue the mysterious of which eastern worldviews and philosophies amply provide. For example, a hopeless belief system such as atheism does not prove to be particularly striking for those seeking out meaning in this universe. Instead, the NAS goal is to achieve oneness with all people, all nature, and all of the universe.
I also believe that many westerners are tired of the Christian message that has dominated the religious sphere for centuries. Many people find certain Christian doctrines to be unattractive such as original sin, for example. To be told that man is a fallen creature, that hell exists, and that God is wholly separate from man is a deterrent for many people seeking to gratify their spiritual desires. One NAS writer informs us that “many New Agers tend to shy away from the structure and confines of traditional religious practices. But at the same time the New Age is and can be intensely spiritual. The New Age person often prefers a direct spiritual experience rather than one from organized religion” (5). Likewise as Walter Martin explains, New Agers “see themselves as advanced in consciousness, rejecting Judeo-Christian values and the Bible in favor of Oriental philosophies and religion” (6).
It’s also that NAS is so prevalent in our popular media that it filters down to viewers. For example, the famous TV personality Oprah Winfrey, the popular author Eckhart Tolle, or the New Age book and film The Secret have all reached millions of people worldwide with an ideology that many find appealing. If a view is endorsed by a popular figure then it is surely to attract followers.
Also, some people still tend to hold onto, to some degree, their beliefs that they were brought up with but also end up blending “Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects” (2). Although the USA is predominantly Christian “significant minorities profess belief in a variety of Eastern or New Age beliefs. For instance, 24% of the public overall and 22% of Christians say they believe in reincarnation — that people will be reborn in this world again and again. And similar numbers (25% of the public overall, 23% of Christians) believe in astrology” (3). It’s also interesting that, according to scholar Steven Sutcliffe, the New Age phenomenon “has an almost entirely white, middle-class demography largely made up of professional, managerial, arts, and entrepreneurial occupations” (4).
I believe that NAS also appeals to many today because people want to feel that they are in control of their future in a world that often seems threatening. Often it is about creating our own destiny in finding these alleged eternal truths as well as achieving cosmic consciousness.
1. Rhodes, R. 2001. The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions: The Essential Guide to Their History, Their Doctrine, and Our Response. p. 129.
2. Pew Research Center. 2009. Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths. Available.
3. Pew Research Center. 2009. Ibid.
4. Sutcliffe, S. 2003. Children of the New Age: A History of Spiritual Practices. p. 223.
5. Lutts, A. New Age FAG: Frequently Asked Questions. Available.
6. Martin, W. 1980. The New Age Cult. p.130.