If you've ever listened to New Age music, you might think you know what the term "New Age" signifies - an alternative spiritual subculture that believes in holistic health, environmentalism, psychic experiences, reincarnation, and meditation, among other things. These activities are a part of the mass media's portrayal of the New Age movement that began in the mid-1980s in America. Such New Age tenets also included more ethereal concepts such as channeling, crystals, UFOs, crop circles, and planetary mysteries. By the late 1980s, a whole group of magazines had been developed for believers of these ideas, such as Psychic Guide Magazine, New Age Voice, New Age Retailer, and Yoga Journal.
The diverse activities pursued by the New Age subculture included attendance and participation in study or meditation groups, lectures, and street fairs, as well as the purchase of music, books, crystals, incense, and healing pyramids. New Age followers often patronize fortune tellers, healers, and spiritual counselors for guidance in their lives. American writer Ken Wilber claims that at least 80% of the New Age Spirituality relies primarily on mythic-magical thinking, which is in contrast to genuine world-centric consciousness. The philosophy and cosmology of the New Age movement generally includes a wide variety of beliefs and activities that includes:
Afterlife - Belief that consciousness persists, through reincarnation, even after death . Alternatively, the afterlife exists for continuing to learn through the form of a spirit.
Psychic Energy - Belief that geographic locations such as the Bermuda Triangle and Stonehenge emanate a psychic energy.
Synchronicity - Belief that coincidences have a spiritual meaning and contain spiritual lessons that can educate people who are open to receiving them. The teleological belief in synchronicity posits that everything is universally connected through God, and everyone participates and exists in the same energy, working toward the same goal.
Astrology - Belief that the Zodiac and horoscopes are instrumental in interpreting information about human affairs, events, personalities, and other terrestrial matters.
Quantum Mechanics - Authors Deepak Chopra, Fred Alan Wolf, and Gary Zukav have interpreted the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, wave function collapse, and quantum entanglement to mean that the physical world is only what you believe it to be, because all objects in the universe are one, and existence is endless.
Positive thinking - Belief that a positive attitude and repetitive affirmations will result in success, and that a group of people with highly spiritual consciousness can bring about changes in the entire population. This belief further extends to the idea that humans have a responsibility to be creative, and to work proactively to heal our bodies, and the world we live in.
Realizing Potential - Belief that Eastern practices such as yoga, Qigong, reiki, t'ai chi, and others can help a person to become whole and realize their full potential.
Spiritual Beings - Belief that if we open ourselves to their guidance and follow their lead, we can be spiritually awakened by spiritual beings such as angels, ghosts, spirit guides, fairies, and extraterrestrials.
The New Age movement has spread throughout the world into numerous cultures and societies, and every person interprets and develops their own concepts and beliefs to contribute. Many New Age followers believe that food influences the mind as well as the body, so they prefer to eat fresh organic vegetarian food that is locally grown. Others believe that fasting can help a person achieve higher levels of consciousness and thoroughly cleanse the body and spirit. Listening to New Age music and meditating can clear the mind of worldly distractions and allow the soul and body the freedom to heal and develop without needing intervention from traditional medical and psychiatric solutions.
But although those New Age followers in the 1980s may have thought they were creating their own subculture, they were actually just expanding on ideas that began long before they were born. Some elements of the New Age movement appeared in the metaphysical movements of the 1800s including Theosophy, Spiritualism, and New Thought. Alternative medical research such as chiropractic and naturopathy were part of the 19th-century New Age thinking. That era also gave birth to various esoteric or occult traditions such as magic, alchemy, astrology, and kabbalah.
The first known usage of the New Age in the context of these ideas is the book The Secret Doctrine, by Madame Blavatsky, which was published in 1888. However, the term "New Age" was actually used even earlier than that by William Blake in his preface to Milton: A Poem, which was written around 1809. So although many young people today would like to think that they are among the founders of the New Age movement, they are actually inheriting and expanding upon ideas first envisioned by their great-grandparents.