The New Age Movement in the 1970s

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  • 0:01 A New Way
  • 0:45 Roots in Old Beliefs
  • 1:50 Common Ground
  • 2:50 Controversy
  • 4:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

While many people have an opinion on New Age thought, not many people actually know what it is. Some groups may denounce it, but then offer yoga classes twice a week. Learn more about this collection of beliefs.

A New Way

By the 1960s and '70s, a new movement was beginning to take hold in a number of regions throughout the world. Focused on the oneness of not only humanity, but of the entire world, this new system seemed to rise in diametric opposition to the forces of communism, capitalism, militarism, and selfishness that had dominated the news stories of those decades. Except for one thing - it wasn't simply one new system, but dozens, all with seemingly the same goal. In fact, about the only thing that these new groups had in common with each other, other than their rejection of dominant social norms, was that they saw themselves as harbingers of a New Age of oneness not only with the present world, but also with the past and future.

Roots in Old Beliefs

Right now, you're probably thinking to yourself, ''Wait, slow down - how does a system like this just create itself overnight?'' Good question. In short, it didn't. New Age thought draws on all sorts of beliefs, both ancient and modern. For example, there is the Gaia Hypothesis, which proclaims living creatures interact in such a way to self-regulate the non-living environment, itself not a big jump from environmentalism. But that's a relatively new idea - what about older thought?

Practically every world religion has contributed to New Age thought in some way, especially the more mystical sides of the established religions. High Church practice may not have a role in New Age thought, but the writings of the early Gnostics, an almost mystical side to Christianity, feature heavily in some interpretations. The same can be said about Sufi Islam and the Kabbalah of Judaism. That said, Eastern traditions, such as Hinduism, are especially influential on New Age thought.

Common Ground

With all these different influences, surely New Age thought can't all be the same. And you'd be right, except that it agrees on some common concepts. Mysticism is a key part of New Age thought, as is oneness with the Earth and all of Creation. Those parts of Abrahamic religions that call for humanity to be a steward of the natural world were particularly appealing to New Age believers. But what about the name ''New Age?'' That requires some explanation outside of traditional Western religion.

A common cultural ideal during the period was that the planet was entering the Age of Aquarius, a 2,160-year period of the Zodiac unlike anything that the world had ever seen. So, when did this new Age of Aquarius begin? The thing is that there seems to be some disagreement on it, whether it was in the 19th century or even just a few years ago. However, this idea of a new time, and new hope for humanity, was attractive to people looking for new hopes in an era of cultural change.

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