Is there really such a thing as new age spirituality? If so, how has it changed from what spirituality was in past ages? Does true spirituality grow and evolve as it progresses over time or is it only our concept of it that changes? Can spirituality shift itself and change over time, or is it a constant essence of life that is discovered with greater clarity and meaning as the ages pass? Much in the same way the archaeologist brushes away the ancient dust to reveal the fossilized bone, so too do we, every day, remove the grains of sand covering the spirituality that we seek? Over time, our perceptions and understanding of all things changes, and as this happens, we believe that the thing we are observing is what is changing, failing to realize that it is really us that is changing. The manner in which we observe is the thing that is changing, not the things that we watch. In this sense, we have entered a new period where our perception of the ancient elements of our own spiritual make up is the new thing, and not that spiritual essence that has been there all along.
The concept of new age spirituality began in the latter part of the twentieth century and it attempts to meld together aspects of Eastern and Western spiritual influences into a cohesive and modern philosophy. New age spirituality draws inspiration from many different world religions as well as a multitude of metaphysical and psychological elements in an attempt to create an enlightened compilation of a variety of disciplines. While new age spirituality seeks to be all things to all people, it can be argued that since it is comprised of multiple disciplines, new age spirituality has no identifying, coherent philosophy of its own. Unlike other belief systems or religions, there is no central, organizing structure to new age spirituality. It exists mainly as a manifestation of individual identity that can no longer be comfortably cataloged within seemingly outdated religious practice and definition. Many people have come to desire more than what traditional religion can deliver to them.
People yearn for answers to questions that are not always asked by religion, and it must be noted that there just are certain things that cannot be explained by religious practice, and since contemporary religion differs little from its origins, people are forced to search in other directions. New age spirituality has become a method in which people can pick and choose the very structure of their own faith according to their own specific needs. The benefit of this aspect of new age spirituality is it allows people the freedom to discover and guide themselves along their spiritual path in a completely personal and familiar way while still maintaining the benefit of certain forms of structure that appeal to them. This allows for great personal freedom spiritually, but it also what leads to the greatest criticism and perhaps, its main flaw.
The irony is that nothing in its makeup is actually new. It reformulates old age beliefs and transfers them into the supposed modern age of enlightened thought where it is the concept of an individual’s ability to construct their own dogma using the piecemeal application of established belief systems that is new, not the actual disciplines, and this can create its own problems. This process is the creation of a belief system that is based in the belief of nothing in particular along with no organized structure to define and support it. Because most people are not disciplined enough inwardly to maintain total responsibility over their own personally formulated belief system, they fall into the trap of believing in whatever becomes expedient for their current situation rather than eventually discovering those things which ring true during the discovery of a disciplined spiritual journey.
Another issue is that since it has no structure other than the belief in any and all possible spiritual belief structures, it runs the risk of having individuals delve too deeply into more obscure and controversial beliefs to suit their own personal identity trends, which are fluid and can be compromised, rather than fulfilling the needs of their spiritual self, which is constant in its relationship and identity with the essence of the world around us. In other words, a person’s environment and current emotional condition can dictate their belief in something they might not usually consider valid. They can become enamored by the process of the belief system rather than the actual end result of what it is they are trying to believe in. In this way, the glamour of belonging to a process or group that is considered higher minded or more unique, because of a more obscure belief system, is what becomes important to believe in, not the end result of what that process or group thought is.
Perhaps the greatest function that new age spirituality provides to many people is that it does take and utilize much of the older and more conventional thoughts and practices of spirituality while applying a new moniker to them, thus possibly opening them up to discovery by newer generations. It can be said that the actual things that are new about it is the application of pre-existing ideas with a new focus on the individuals interaction on a personal and customizable level rather than in a pre-conceived, set piece manner of one size fits all. Whatever negative that can be said about new age spirituality, the fact that a new approach to spirituality based upon established conventions that are applied on an individual needs basis is a brave and new approach that can awaken a new sense of purpose and meaning in those who are new to self discovery or have become spiritually stagnant. This new approach is a revitalization that brings a hope of new direction for those who seek to find meaning in their lives, but up until now, have not had the means to achieve it.