New Age Harmonies
Written by: Friedrich, Otto Posted on: 04/24/2003
Category: Cults / Sects / Non Christian Religions and Topics
The following article appeared in the December 7, 1987 issue of TIME Magazine.
Entitled "NEW AGE HARMONIES", it outlines many of the beliefs of New Age
movement and helps to define what this movement's beliefs really are.
CCN has edited the original 7 page document due to space and time constraints
on our system. Wherever text has been omitted, we have used the standard
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article, we suggest you contact your local library or Time, Inc. at Time Life
Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y., 10020-1393
New Age Harmonies
by Otto Friedrich
Mary Cronin / New York
Michael Riley / Los Angeles
Dennis Wyss / San Francisco
... So here we are in the New Age, a combination of spirituality and
superstition, fad and farce, about which the only thing certain is that it is
not new. Nobody seems to know exactly where the term came from, but it has
been around for several decades or more, and many elements of the New Age,
like faith healing, fortune-telling and transmigration of souls, go back for
centuries. (Ages, in general, are an uncertain affair. The Age of Aquarius,
celebrated in the musical Hair, may have started in the 1960s or at the turn
of the century or may not yet have begun. Once under way, such astrological
ages are supposed to last 2,000 years.)
Though it is hard to say exactly how many Americans believe in which parts of
the New Age, the movement as a whole is growing steadily. Bantam Books says
it's New Age titles have increased tenfold in the past decade. The number of
New Age bookstores has doubled in the past five years, to about 2,500. New
Age radio is spreading, with such stations as WBMW in Washington and KTWV-FM
in Los Angeles offering dreamy light jazz that one listener described as "like
I tapped into a radio station on Mars". The Grammys now include a special
prize for New Age music (latest winner: Swiss Harpist Andreas Vollenweider).
Fledgling magazines with names like New Age, Body Mind Spirit and Brain/Mind
Bulletin are full of odd ads: "Healing yourself with crystals", "American
Indian magic can work for you", "How to use a green candle to gain money",
"The power of the pendulum can be in your hands", Use numerology to win the
lottery". And, perhaps inevitably, "New health through colon rejuvenation".
If some of those have a slightly greedy tone, the reason is that New Age
fantasies often intersect with mainstream materialism, the very thing that
many New Age believers profess to scorn. A surprising number of successful
stockbrokers consult astrological charts; a yuppie investment banker who earns
$100,000 a year talks of her previous life as a monk. Some millionaires have
their own private gurus who pay house calls to provide comfort and advice.
Big corporations too are paying attention. "The principle here is to look at
the mind, body, heart and spirit", says a corporate spokesperson, who asks
that her employer be identified only as a "major petrochemical company". This
company provides it's employees with regular workshops in stress management;
it has hired a faith healer to "read auras" for ailing employees and run her
hands over their "fields of energy". Even the U.S. Army has commissioned a
West Coast firm to explore the military potentials of meditation and
... For all it's popularity, the New Age is hard to define. It includes a
whole cornucopia of beliefs, fads, rituals; some subscribe to some parts, some
to others. Only on special occasions, like the highly publicized "harmonic
convergence" in August, do believers in I Ching or crystals gather together
with believers in astral travel, shamans, Lemurians and tarot readers, for a
communal chanting of "OM", the Hindu invocation that often precedes
meditation. Led on by the urgings of Jose Arguelles, a Colorado art historian
who claimed that ancient Mayan calendars foretold the end of the world unless
the faithful gathered to provide harmony, some 20,000 New Agers assembled at
"sacred sites" from Central Park to Mount Shasta to - uh - provide harmony.
All in all, the New Age does express a cloudy sort of religion, claiming vague
connections with both Christianity and the major faiths of the East (New Agers
like to say the Jesus spent 18 years in India absorbing Hinduism and the
teachings of Buddha), plus an occasional dab of pantheism and sorcery. The
underlying faith is a lack of faith in the orthodoxies of rationalism, high
technology, routine living, spiritual law-and-order. Somehow, the New Agers
believe, there must be some secret and mysterious shortcut or alternative path
to happiness and health. And nobody ever really dies.
Like other believers, many New Agers attach great importance to artifacts,
relics and sacred objects, all of which can be profitably offered for sale:
Tibetan bells, exotic herbal teas, Viking runes, solar energizers, colored
candles for "chromotherapy", and a Himalayan mountain of occult books,
pamphlets, instructions and tape recordings. Some of these magical products
are quite imaginative. A bearded Colorado sage who calls himself Gurudas sells
"gem elixirs", which he creates by putting stones in bowls of water and
leaving them in the sun for several hours, claiming that this allows the water
to absorb energy from the sun and the stone.
Most New Agers prefer the stones themselves, specifically crystals of all
sorts. These are not only thought to have mysterious healing powers but are
considered programmable, like a computer, if one just concentrates hard
enough. (The most powerful crystals are buried deep under New England, some
New Agers believe, because New England was once connected to Atlantis, the
famous "lost continent".)
... There is no unanimity of New Age belief in anything, but many New Agers do
believe in unidentified flying objects, crewed by oddly shaped
extraterrestrials who have long visited the earth from more advanced planets,
spreading the wisdom that created, among other things, Stonehenge and the
pyramids of Egypt. Government officials keep announcing that there are no
such things as UFOs, but the National Science Foundation reported last year
that 43% of the citizenry believe it "likely" that some of the UFOs reported
"are really space vehicles from other civilizations". (And where DID those
airstrip-like markings in the Peruvian Andes come from?)
... Come to a rocky meadow on California's Mount Shasta, where a New Zealander
named Neville Rowe tells the encircling crowd of 200 (admission: $10) that he
speaks with the voice of Soli, an "off-planet being" who has never actually
lived on earth. Dressed in a white-peaked cap, purple shirt and purple shoes,
Rowe clutches a bottle of Evian water as the voice emerges from him in a
rather peculiar British accent. "You are here to express who you are", says
Soli. "You are here to search for yourself. The highest recognition you can
make is that I am what I am. All that is, is. You are God. You are, each
and every one, part of the Second Coming".
Somebody wants to argue. What about murderers? Are they God too?
"Your truth is your truth", says Soli, while his helpers start trying to sell
video-tapes of his latest incarnation. "My truth is my truth".
... Probably the most celebrated of all current channelers is J.Z. Knight, a
handsome ex-housewife in Yelm, Wash., who has performed for thousands at a
price of $150 each per session. She speaks for Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old
warrior who reports that he once lived on Atlantis. He has even dictated a
book, "I Am Ramtha", published in Portland, Ore., by Beyond Words Publishing
and illustrated with photographs of Knight going into a trance on The Merv
Griffin Show. Sample words of Ramthan wisdom: "Who be I? I am a notorious
entity. I have that which is called a reputation. Know you what that is?
Controversial, and I do what I say I do. What I am here to do is not to
change people's minds, only to engage them and allow the wonderments for those
that desire them to come to pass. I have been you, and I have become the
other side of what you are..."
The sayings of Ramtha have brought Knight substantial rewards, including a
luxurious mansion complete with spa, swimming pools and Arabian horses. A
spokesman deprecates talk of her wealth, however, by noting that she pays a
staff of 14 and that the tax collectors are insatiable.
Jo Ann Karl is a tall blond who says she was an up-and-coming business
executive until she discovered the supernatural seven years ago. She was on a
business trip in the Midwest when she first felt herself drifting through
space outside her body. She tried to ignore the experience, but it kept
recurring. Now she gets $15 a customer for channeling the archangel Gabriel
and a spirit named Ashtar.
"The lesson I learned in one of my past lives was about taking risks", says
Karl. "I was married to St. Peter. We traveled widely with Jesus, teaching
with him. After he was crucified, we continued to teach and travel for
several more years, until we were caught by the Romans. Peter was crucified,
and I was thrown to the lions, after being raped and pilloried. Now I
understand why I've always been afraid of big animals".
Karl's spirit guides had been advising her to go to the Incan empire's sacred
Lake Titicaca in Bolivia (the Andes seem to be a favorite way station for
UFOs). "They sort of told us we would meet them", she says. "I won't
believe it until I see them and talk to them and feel the panel on the
spaceship. But maybe it is time for people to know they have help". And so,
starry-eyed and full of hope, Karl headed southward, and she did catch a
distant glimpse of what she took to be a spaceship. "It looked like a whole
lot of orange light", she says. "A blast of light spherical in shape. It was
big and far away."
... One of the most go-getting New Age entrepreneurs is Chris Majer, 36,
president of SportsMind, Inc., based in Seattle. As the corporate name
indicates, Majer originally worked mainly on athletic training, though his
current clients include not only AT&T but also the U.S. Army. Majer started
his military efforts in 1982 with an eight-week , $50,000 training program at
Fort Hood in Texas. Traditional calisthenics were replaced by a holistic
stretching-warm-up-aerobics-cool-down routine. Soldiers practiced visualizing
their combat tasks. The results in training test scores were apparently so
good that the Army expanded SportsMind's assignment into a yearlong, $350,000
program to help train Green Berets. "They wanted the most far-ranging human-
performance program we could deliver", Majer says.
The Green Berets were taught meditation techniques so that they could spend
long hours hidden in enemy territory. "They have to be comfortable at a deep
level with who they are", Majer says, "not make mental mistakes or they'll
give away their position and get killed. People say all this New Age stuff is
a bunch of hoo-hoo, but it gets results".
While the idea of New Age Green Berets meditating in the jungle can inspire
laughter, it can also inspire a certain concern about the political and social
implications of the whole movement. Is it some kind of neoleftist response to
the Age of Reagan, or is it an ultrarightist extension of Reaganism? The
answer depends somewhat on the answerer's politics. ...
Computers for Christ
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