The New Age Movement And The Revival of Paganism

When “Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future” was first published in 1975,the form of neo-paganism in Western society was only beginning to be delineated.Today it has taken on a more definite shape,being seen most clearly in what has come to be known as “New Age” spirituality.In 1975 the term “New Age”,though indeed familiar in Masonic,esoteric and countercultural groups,was not common parlance.Now it is a banner term for a whole worlwide movement-and a multi-billion dollar business.
Unlike most formal religions,the New Age movement has no central organization,membership,geographic center,dogma or creed.Rather,it is a loose network of people who share similar ideas and practices,and who align themselves with the worldview of the “new religious consciousness”.
Because the New Age movement has no single set of beliefs,it is difficult to offer a blanket definition of it.New Agers can hold to any number of neo-pagan beliefs,from pantheism,panentheism,monism,reincarnation and karma,to a belief in a World-Soul and in Mother Earth (Gaia) as a goddess or living entity.Various psychotechnologies (e.g.,guided imagery,possibility thinking,hypnosis,”dream work”,”past-life regression”,Yoga,Tantra,and hallucinogenic drugs),divination (tarot,astrology) and spiritistic practices (now usually referred to as “channeling”) are undertaken in order to raise practitioners to new levels of consciousness,to develop new “mind-body-spirit” potentials,to affect “inner healing”, or to attain psychic powers.
Chiliastic at its core,the New Age movement is commonly associated with what popular author Joseph Campbell has called a “new planetary mythology”:a mythology which maintains that man is not fallen,that he is ultimately perfectible through the process of “evolution” ,and that through leaps of consciousness he can realize that he is God and thus actualize the kingdom of God on earth.
According to New Age thinking,since man and everything else is God,only one reality exists;and therefore all religions are only different paths to that reality.There is no one correct path,for all paths reach the Divine.New Agers anticipate that a new universal religion which contains elements of all current faiths will envolve and become generally accepted worldwide.
As the New Age “religion of the future” takes shape,we see in our Western,post-Christian society the continued rise of neo-paganism in every possible form.The Eastern religions that Fr. Seraphim wrote about-especially Hinduism and Buddhism-continue to gain followers,receiving endorsements from high-profile celebrities and being publicized through television talk shows,news magazines, and other media outlets.
Yoga,Ayurvedic medicine,and other such Hindu practices have now been accepted into mainstream society.New Age self-help gurus such as Deepak Chopra (formerly a spokesman for the TM movement)promote them exclusively as a means toward “mind-body” health.However,as Fr. Seraphim Rose observed,and as every true Hindu knows,these practices cannot be divorced from their religious context, for they were devised precisely in order to dispose the practitioner toward Hindu religious attitudes and experiences.This fact is now playing itself out in the Western Yoga community,which,having arisen largely out of a quest for “mind-body” health,is steadily introducing the ritual worship of Hindu deities,together with a study of the Hindu Vedas and Jyotish astrology.
Tibetan Buddhism has also seen a considerable gain in popularity among Westerners;it is now much more visible than Zen,which was the leading form of Buddhism among Westerners during Fr. Seraphim’s time.Combining Buddhism with the form of shamanism indigenous to Tibet (the Bon religion),Tibetan Buddhism contains more overtly occult elements than does Zen,including temporary spirit-possession bt Tibetan deities.
As Eastern religions continue to grow in the West,we see today an equal if not greater interest in Western forms of paganism.Whitchcraft,Druidical magic,gnosticism and Native American shamanism have gained enormous popularity among Westerners who find them closer to their own roots than Eastern religions.Kabbalah,the Jewish system of occultism developed after the time of Christ,has also attracted widespread interest;its adherents now include many celebrities from the movie and rock music industries.
While many people merely dabble in the various forms of paganism that are readily available in today’s spiritual supermarket,a growing number have entered deeply into their practice,thus taking part in the pagan “initiation experience” that Fr. Seraphim said would characterize the religion of the future.

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