New Age Spirituality in the Context of Western Esotericism

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In researching for this essay, I encountered certain difficulties with the strict nature of classifying New Age spirituality and Western esotericism. As is the case with so many things in life, this issue is more complex than simple black and white comparisons. While the main purpose of this paper is to argue in favour of the ways in which these two systems are connected, I will be making certain concessions. One of the main problems presented by the study of these systems is how broadly defined they tend to be. The strict comparison would denote a clear understanding of what precisely defines these movements. However, as diverse of a range of ideas as is covered between the two, it's unclear that a decision had ever been arrived at for an absolute answer of what they are. Many parallels can be drawn between them, while certain other discrepancies are also apparent.
The New Age is often associated with the Zodiacal precession from Pisces to Aquarius, (ie. "Age of Aquarius"), an apparent connection to Astrological beliefs. New age ideas about astrological cycles are generally informed by modern Theosophical speculations, which, in turn, are dependent upon older traditions in Western esotericism. The New Age Movement grew in popularity during the 1970s and 1980s, but has existed in various forms since the 2nd century C.E. Beginning with Gnosticism, New Age principles have been present in a variety of groups including Rosicrucians, Freemasons, and Theosophists. New Age ideas have many different origins from a variety of places, but most of them can be traced to Eastern religious traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and other ancient religious traditions. There is a range of new age beliefs, some tending towards certain influences...

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...h plays well into their teaching, since the ultimate goal is unity and oneness.
While there is a fair amount of room to argue that New Age spirituality is derivative of western esotercism, the evidence to support the argument seems to be selective and based on a subjective view of both ideologies. However, they are not mutually exclusive. These movements share tendencies towards syncretism and universalism. Although the ideas present in New Age spirituality are, in part, based in the some of the same thinking as those of older, more classic traditions, it is notable as an independent movement in the history of spiritual belief systems, just as esotericism is viewed separate of it's constituent parts.

Works Cited

[1] Wouter J. Hannegraaff (1998). New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought. State University of New York Press.

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