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The New Age - Sensu Stricto and Sensu Lato

The division of the New Age movement into New Age Sensu Stricto and Sensu Lato is found in historian of esotericism external link Wouter Hanegraaff 's New Age Religion and Western Culture and is a pretty reasonable one.

The New Age in the broad sense (Sensu Lato) might be taken to mean any of a range of contemporary Western religious, spiritual, healing modality, and human potential beliefs, practices, and communities, that developed out of the counterculture and Human Potential movement of the 1960s and 70s. These represent a form of post-materialism that reject mainstream religion and scientism, in favour of a tolerant, sometimes wildly uncritical or highly commercialistic, highly ecclectic, sometimes absurdly so, approach. The emphasis is on healing, creating your own reality, meditation, a wholesome lifestyle, and positive attitude to humanity, nature, and the Earth.

Hanegraaff lists and summarises five basic and very general elements which may be which he sees as constitutive for New Age religion as it is expressed in various New Age books, and allowing for many differences of individual interpretation. These might also be taken as one possible working definition of the New Age Sensu Lato . They are:

  1. this-worldliness, generally of the weak variety (the world is real but evolution leads to the transcendent)
  2. holism, the universal interrelatedness of all things, either with or without a common creative Source of Being
  3. evolutionism, - evolution is teleological and creative, the evolution of consciousness or of souls
  4. psychologisation of religion and sacralisation of psychology - evolution leads to perfect illumination, self-realisation is the same as God-realisation, we create our own realities
  5. expectations of a coming New Age - which may be either a moderate change for a better, more caring, compassionate, and ecologically self-sustainable world (the New Age sensu lato) or a radical raising of the collective vibratory level or breakthrough to a new spiritual era (the New Age sensu stricto)

Note that most New Age literature and teachings are not anywhere this systematic and scholarly; the ideas tend to appear in a background context.

Although the New Age movement as a whole incorporates elements of Theosophy (especially Alice Bailey and David Spangler), Eastern mysticism (via pop gurus), Neopaganism, and pop-science (especially quantum physics); it is really the New Age sensu stricto where modified Alice Bailey style (not Blavatskyian or Adyar) theosophical (via David Spangler) and eschatological (the Mayan Prophecy, Earth Ascending meme popularised by Jose Arguelles) predominates. This sees the world moving towards a Teilhardian omega point and a radical spiritual transformation. In term,s of this distinction, the the New Age sensu lato includes the New Paradigm, Wilberian Integral , and Global Mindshift movements, whereas the New Age sensu stricto constitutes a more radical metaphysical and cosmological mythohistorical worldview. Significantly, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother's teachings, which are far more strongly this-worldly than any other "New Age" currents except for Neo-Paganism (assuming the latter is included as New Age, which Hanegraaf does, but I consider it distinct) ) is very compatibility with the radical sensu stricto New Age variant, except that standard sensu stricto New Ageism tends to be world-negating, tied up with the old yogas of spiritual transcendence, rather than the New revelation (Integral Yoga) of spiritual transformation of physical matter itself.

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Text content by M.Alan Kazlev
uploaded 22 July 2008