New Age was primarily a movement amongst the younger generation in the late sixties that demanded to play a greater part in all aspects of society. Through the use of mind-expanding drugs a greater reality was being unfolded to them that called for other explanations than traditional religion could give. Its concepts of God and Love were too narrow to accommodate the overwhelming experiences they had on their trips. Transcendence, self-realisation, yoga, meditation, all part of existing traditions, were being rediscovered and practised.
Originally it had been given the name: the Age of Aquarius to signify the new era of spiritual enfoldment as foretold in astrology.
In the early seventies, when the movement was well on its way, the name New Age was adopted. Of course it was a term with whiskers on. William Blake schreef al in 1804-08, in zijn voorwoord van Milton: "Rouze up, O Young Men of the New Age!
As might be expected New Age unleashed counter-forces from the side of fundamentalist Christian denominations. Especially after Marilyn Ferguson wrote in her book The Aquarian Conspiracy that the fraternity dedicated to this philosophy constituted a worldwide network. Dedicated persons would recognize each other in a few minutes without secret signs, but merely by a short exchange of ideas. This was seen as a sort of Satanic conspiracy. Especially people who followed so-called occult practices came under suspicion. The orthodox Christian establishment found allies in the equally dogmatic Sceptics and members of CSICOP in their efforts to suppress and misrepresent New Age and occultism in the media.
But in effect it were the Christians who started misrepresenting the life of Jesus. This is the conclusion of some modern biblical scholars. The oldest document of the Jesus tradition that survived is that of the Thomas gospel, part of the Nag Hammadi papers discovered in Egypt in 1945. In it a gnostic Jesus comes forward that has more affinity with the New Age than the fundamentalism of extremist Christianity.
Christians consider the Bible the word of God whereas a little research shows that the oldest 4th century codices we have is the product of countless copying errors, inconsistencies, alterations and invention of fairy tale-like stories, often borrowed from pagan sources, to instill awe in the figure of Jesus who supposedly endorsed their dogmatic views but who may have been a heretic himself. For one thing, the gospels were not written by the apostles. The most important event in Jesus life, the crucifixion, may not even have taken place. It is not mentioned in the oldest first century documents. The later Christians instilled fear in followers with their prediction of the end of the world to come in in their lifetime, started bloody persecution of heretics and Jews. Thus they made a mockery of what their supposed founder taught.
New Age has not traveled to the end of the road yet. It is reaching a stage of maturity in which wheat is being separated from the corn. Yet, it still comprises a broad spectrum of activities from the commercial rip-off to unselfish dedication to serve mankind spiritually. Many do not wish to be associated with the name because it reminds them of the turbulence associated with the uprising of the younger generation in the late sixties and the lamentable drug excrescences.
One may pray that the movement will sustain its original purity and raise high the spirit of new generations, giving it an immense vista of life and a purpose to live for.