New Age is a term that can be applied to a number of religious and spiritual beliefs, but in general it specifically applies to religious and spiritual ideas that began in the 1970's. It is generally considered a form of Western esotericism and draws very heavily on a number of older esoteric traditions though most involved in the New Age movement have no idea which older practices they are pulling from. Though the New Age movement had some earlier roots in things like the UFO religions and the Human Potential Movement, in general people believe that it started in the 1970's in the United Kingdom and spread from there. It was a short lived movement; by the time the new century came around many people had moved away from New Age beliefs and begun to explore other systems of belief.
The New Age MovementIn general, New Age is thought to be a collection of thoughts pulled from the metaphysical and from the Eastern religions that Westerners perceive as being more spiritual. Practitioners take from these ideas their beliefs on religious tolerance. Many people who believe in New Age ideas believe that this is the Age of Aquarius, an age that was prophesied to bring peace and enlightenment as well as a unity with god. What doctrine there is on the New Age movement explains that humans have a lack of insight into the truths of god, god's nature, and reality and it is this lack of insight that has caused us to be estranged from god. The New Age movement claims that men are divine co-creators of the universe. It has two main ideas, evolutionary godhood and global unity.
Evolutionary godhood is the idea that man kind, being divine itself, needs to evolve not physically but spiritually. Through this spiritual evolution man and reality will achieve unity and through this unity, and the practices involved, man will re-achieve its unity with the divine it has lost and become divine itself once again. New Age practices and ritual are centered around this idea, encouraging practitioners to use astral projection, mediumship, crystal healing, and visualization to encourage and speed up this spiritual evolution.
Global Unity: Man, Nature & GodGlobal unity has three distinct parts: unity with other man, unity with nature, and unity with god. Unity with man is the idea that because we are all divine we should accept the divinity of one another and live in harmony together. This harmony should encompass all of our lives including spiritual, economic, and political areas. Unity with nature is the idea that since we are all divine and nature is also divine that we should be in harmony with nature. Nature is to be worshiped and revered. Lastly, unity with god is the ultimate form of unity and evolution. The New Age movement says that man is divine and that its ultimate goal is to realize its divinity. Because god is impersonal and has not revealed himself to mankind helping them to establish their own divinity, mankind should not be held hostage to the arbitrary laws of something that the New Age movement claims is no greater than we are. And as evolved and unified beings it is our goal to live in a world of relativism where morality is up to each person.
The New Age movement has firm roots in the earlier 18th century esotericism. Many practitioners use occultic tools such as psychics, Tarot cards and astrology and believe in healing practices and traditional medicines such as acupuncture, homeopathy, Reiki and spirit healing.