New Age Movement
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New Age Movement
Besides some contemporary terms for ancient teachings and spiritual practices, there is really nothing very new about the “New Age” movement. It still upsets the established priesthood in much the same ways as it did thousands of years ago.
Many of the roots of contemporary New Age thinking can be found in the ancient Egyptian and Greek mystery schools; and in the 1970s, a number of the concepts and beliefs professed by Mme Helena Blavatsky in the 1880s were refined and given a new life in what has been broadly defined and termed the “New Age.” In addition to such contributions as occult masters and guides, Mme Blavatsky was greatly responsible for popularizing the concepts of reincarnation and past lives in Europe and the United States.
It is, however, Alice Bailey, a prodigious writer of the occult, who has earned the title of “mother” of the modern form of the New Age movement. Born Alice Ann La Trobe Bateman on June 16, 1880, to a wealthy, aristocratic family in Manchester, England, Alice became an extraordinary woman, who served at one time as a devoted, conventionally religious missionary worker and Sunday-school teacher.
At the age of fifteen Alice had a profound spiritual experience. One afternoon she was alone in her room reading when the door mysteriously opened and a tall stranger entered. Terrified, Alice felt unable to move or to speak as the man, with a large turban on his head, began explaining that there was a plan for her on Earth. However, her disposition would have to change considerably. If she could learn to exercise self-control and become a more pleasant and trustworthy person, she would travel all over the world and do the “master’s work.” Adding that he would check in on her at several-year intervals, he paused, looked at her one last time, and walked out.
Thinking the stranger to be Jesus Christ, Alice was deeply affected by his message. She worked hard at becoming a nice person, so much so that her family feared she was ill. Not until years later, after she had moved to California and some friends introduced her to Helena Blavatsky, Theosophy, and the Secret Doctrines, did Alice realize that the man who had so mysteriously walked into her room and life was Master Koot Hoomi.
Theosophy is an esoteric blend of Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Gnosticism, Manichaeism, the Kabbalah, and the philosophy of Plato and other mystics—all combined with the teachings of mysterious masters who dwell in secret places in the Himalayas and communicate with their initiates through their psychic abilities and their projected astral bodies. Madame Blavatsky claimed to be able to draw upon the ancient wisdom of the Tibetan masters Koot Hoomi and Morya to supplement the considerable knowledge that she had distilled from various mystery schools.
In 1875 Mme Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, and William Q. Judge decided to move beyond the precepts of Spiritualism and create a more sophisticated approach to spirit contact and mysticism. They named their new organization the Theosophical Society. The threefold purpose of the society was to form a universal brotherhood of man; to study and make known the ancient religions, philosophies, and sciences; and to investigate the laws of nature and develop the divine powers latent in humankind. In 1877 Mme Blavatsky published her overview of the occult, Isis Unveiled.
Mesmerized by Blavatsky’s teachings, Alice Bailey rose to prominence in the Theosophical Society headquarters in California, taking a job as a vegetarian cook and scrubbing the bottoms of garbage pails to support herself. A first marriage ended in divorce, but her second marriage, to the attorney Foster Bailey, the treasurer of the society, was successful, for he too devoted his life to the study of ancient wisdom. Not long after their uniting, in 1919, another “teacher” appeared to Alice, identifying himself as the Tibetan master DK or Djwhal Khul.
Alice wrote a series of “Ageless Wisdom” books of teachings from DK that became very popular and were eventually lauded as classics in occult teaching. In her later years, Alice and Foster Bailey founded the Arcane School, headquartered in New York, with centers in Europe; Lucis Trust, with over six thousand active members; the Lucis Trust Publishing Company; and the World Goodwill Centers. Her work continues to be a main influence on “New Agers” or those interested in the occult or in deeper spiritual mysteries.
Alice Bailey channeled what is known as the Great Invocation, words from the Tibetan master Djwhal Khul, that are often recited at New Age meetings and gatherings:
From the point of Light within the Mind of God, let light stream forth into the minds of men. Let Light descend on Earth. From the point of Love within the Heart of God, let love stream forth into the hearts of men. May Christ return to Earth. From the center where the will of God is know, let purpose guide the little will of men—the purpose which the Masters know and serve. From the center which we call the race of men, let the Plan of Love and Light work out—and may it seal the door where evil dwells. Let Light and Love and Power restore.
In the 1960s, when the flower children began singing about the dawning of the Age of Aquarius flooding the world with the light of harmony and understanding, peace and love abounding, conventional Christian clergy became increasingly concerned about the role of Jesus in the New Age. Conservative theologians assessed the New Age philosophy as being more human-centered than God-centered. The essence of humankind was its divinity, said the New Agers, and each man and woman was a co-creator with God. The members of the movement seemed completely open-minded and tolerant of all paths and religious perspectives—except that of Christianity.
In the 1970s, after the publication of Jane Roberts’s books The Seth Material and Seth Speaks, “channeling” became a more popular name for mediumship, and it remains so to the present day. Roberts received contact with an entity named Seth after entering a trance state. Robert Butts, her husband, wrote down the thoughts, ideas, and concepts communicated by the spirit. The material dictated by Seth was very literate and provocative, and especially well suited to a generation of maturing sixties flower children and baby boomers. It wasn’t long before Seth discussion groups around the nation were celebrating such concepts as the following: (1) We all create our own reality; (2) our point of power lies in the present; and (3) we are all gods couched in “creaturehood.”
In the 1970s the very idea of establishing contact with great spirit teachers from other dimensions such as Seth seemed new and exciting to many men and women. However, from the viewpoint of students of the paranormal and mysticism, it seemed only that another cycle of awareness had reached its season. Soon “channelers” were emerging in large numbers throughout the land, and individuals such as Jach Pursel, Kevin Ryerson, and JZ Knight had attained international celebrity status. Contact with the powers of the human psyche and the mysterious world beyond death achieved a peak of popularity that led to an outpouring of television programs, motion pictures, books, New Age expos, and psychic fairs in a virtual cosmic explosion. The New Age had arrived.
In 1987 the ABC television network presented a miniseries based on actress Shirley MacLaine’s book Out on a Limb (1983), which dealt with many subjects exciting to New Age followers, such as reincarnation, extraterrestrial visitation, ancient mysteries, and spirit communication. Perhaps the most captivating segments of the miniseries depicted MacLaine receiving spirit communication through the channeler Kevin Ryerson. The actress and the medium played themselves in the five-hour dramatization on prime-time television, and an international audience of millions could see for themselves how “Tom McPherson,” the four-hundred-year-old spirit of an Irishman, spoke through Ryerson to advise MacLaine. With the popularity of Out on a Limb as a book and as a miniseries, the actress herself conducted a series of seminars in which she discussed her beliefs in past lives, UFOs, and spirit communication.
Why should a philosophical movement that sought to explore ancient mysteries and borderline science become popular in a day of high-tech communications, the Internet, and increasingly sophisticated technology? JZ Knight’s spirit guide Ramtha—a 35,000-year-old warrior from the lost continent of Lemuria—answered that question by stating that there really weren’t any mysteries left for humankind to explore on their material journey. Millions of people had reached a kind of peak in their evolution and were asking who they really were and why they were really here. Ramtha also said that the human journey had reached a point when the self seeks to turn inward.
Born Judith Darlene Hampton on March 16, 1946, in Dexter, New Mexico, JZ Knight grew up in poverty and married soon after attending Lubbock Business College in Lubbock, Texas. The marriage produced two sons but ended in divorce. It was while she was working as a cable television salesperson in Roswell, New Mexico, and Tacoma, Washington, that she began using the initials JZ, taken from her given first name and her nickname, “Zebra,” derived from her penchant for wearing black-and-white clothing.
One day in 1977 when JZ and her second husband, Jeremy Wilder, a dentist, were putting together small pyramids for an experiment with “pyramid energy,” Ramtha appeared before them in their kitchen in Tacoma. After a period of study with Ramtha, Knight gave her first public channeling in November 1978. Word of the content and the mystique of her work spread quickly and gained a wide following for the 35,000-year-old entity and his channel.
Motion picture stars such as Shirley MacLaine, Linda Evans, and Richard Chamberlain have been in the audiences of Ramtha, along with throngs of other people from around the United States and Canada. Since 1978 thousands have studied the Ramtha videos, cassettes, and books. In 1988 Ramtha founded the School of Enlightenment on Knight’s ranch in Yelm, Washington, which continues to hold teaching seminars and which is not a secret society, a church, or a nonprofit organization.
The nationwide interest in channelers and after-death communication continues to find expression in such popular mediums as Sylvia Browne, James Van Praagh, and John Edward, and the orthodox clergy continues to condemn this fascination with the occult as a satanic ploy to draw people away from church, synagogue, or temple. Even the most comprehensive surveys of religion have found that fewer than 100,000 Americans list “New Age” as their personal form of spiritual expression, so it would appear that New Age beliefs are not robbing the pews of the churches in any great numbers.