Recently I was contacted by a reporter from Newsweek magazine, which is considering doing an article on “what has happened to the New Age.” She said that to many of her colleagues, the “New Age” meant the kind of counter-cultural activities of the Sixties and Seventies, many of which expressed an attitude of alienation from and conflict with mainstream society. Not seeing that same kind of activity as prevalent today, her colleagues had told her that the New Age was “dead.”
She did not believe this, she told me. Instead, she felt that the New Age was as alive as ever but that its values and directions had merged more with everyday society. She cited the manner in which people were now taking for granted such things as the health food section in the local grocery store, the holistic health clinic in town, the growth of Co-ops in many fields, the interest in natural childbirth, the growing use of solar energy, and so forth.
She is right. Through the efforts of many individuals and groups, the New Age is moving towards integration and invisibility. The transformation is taking place not through the “bang” of an apocalypse but through the quieter and less dramatic growth of familiarity and an acceptance that the holistic values of the New Age actually work to our benefit.
The acceptance of a Co-op or health foods in the grocery store is not necessarily the same as a deeper integration of a planetary spirit, but to the extent that such manifestations encourage and support holistic values and to the extent that, because of such changes, we come to accept these values as normal, an important step has been taken. As long as the New Age remains something exotic and separate from our lives, such as a future event or an alternative way of living, it will not arrive. It is only as it becomes invisible by virtue of being the new definition of “ordinary” that we can say a new culture has truly emerged.
This article originally appeared as a sidebar to Empty Talk and Slow Transformational Change: On New Age Rhetoric in Utne Reader’s Summer 1984 issue. For more similar, see New Age: What in the Name of God? and The New Age Danger: Real or Imagined?.