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Beliefs about Beliefs © Martyn Carruthers
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Brief History of New Age
In the 19th century, the philosophy of a mental healer named Phineas Quimby became the basis of the then-popular New Thought Movement, which was later relabeled as Positive Thinking. Quimby wrote that people can assist the evolution of the human race by creating a New Age of healing and enlightenment. We consider Quimby to be the godfather of the New Age movement.
Quimby was famous for healing disease by changing people’s beliefs. This remains a radical notion for many people, although it is a notion that we apply often. Quimby’s concepts provided the raw material adopted by both the Unitarian and Christian Science churches, (Mary Baker Eddy was a patient and later a student of Quimby).
Quimby’s work formed a basis for the New Thought and Positive Thinking movements that soon swept America, which evolved into what is often called the New Age movement. Now, over a hundred years later, groups of people with diverse agendas are spreading philosophies generally called New Age.
Many religions, perhaps feeling both the heat of competition and the chills of reduced membership, condemn New Age members and beliefs. Monopolies hate competition.
Some people consider us to be part of this New Age movement yet we try to avoid New Age labels. We do not consider ourselves to be members, although some of us may cherish some core New Age goals and concepts.
Core New Age Goals & Concepts
New Age groups seem to share common goal directions, but not leaders, dogma nor organizational structures. These diverse spiritual, social and political groups often share an abstract agenda – to transform society through individual transformation.
As spiritual transformation encourages open-ended development, people associated with New Age organizations frequently change their beliefs, goals and perspectives. However, many members of New Age groups share three interwoven core concepts.
- People can control their own spiritual development
- Spiritual development will result in social transformation
- Social transformation can end racism, poverty, sickness and war
Our systemic psychology is sometimes perceived as New Age, and many of our graduates like some core New Age concepts – especially if spirituality is defined in terms of relationship systems.
We find that common blocks on the path to mature spirituality include the desires to feel special – to seem better – to be unique.
Common New Age Beliefs
The beliefs held by people who call themselves New Age tend to be diverse and transitory, perhaps more stepping stones than a stable dogma. Answers to the question “Who are you?” may indicate a person’s name, the last book read or the most recent workshop attended. However, some beliefs appear to be important to many members of New Age groups:
- Monism: “All is one.” Everything and everyone is interrelated and interdependent. There is no real difference between humans, animals, rocks or gods. Differences between entities are subjective and not objective.
- Pantheism: If “all is one” then “All is divine.” All creation shares a divine essence. All life (and even non-life) shares and reflects divinity.
- Divinity: If “all is one” and “all is divine” then “We have forgotten our divinity“. Yet we can remember our connectedness and experience our integration with “all that is“.
- Consciousness: People suffer collective metaphysical amnesia. If we can find our true identity, we can transform our consciousness to fulfill our human potential.
- Reincarnation: Cycles of birth and death reflect consequences (karma) of past actions and allow perfection. People’s conditions are determined by their past (life) actions.
- Moral relativism. Truth is relative, rather than absolute. Conflicting beliefs can be accepted without stress, for example, “Every religion is true” or “There are many paths to the One“.
Core Soulwork Beliefs
Although I loosely define beliefs as “feelings of certainty about verbal statements“, many of my graduates seem to hold some stable beliefs:
- Creativity: Creation reflects an unmanifest potential that can be experienced
- Connectedness: Emotions, beliefs, symptoms, behaviors and happiness are interconnected
- Relationships: Human life includes a hierarchy of relationship responsibilities
- Integrity: Human beings can always choose to act with integrity
- Love: There is no limit on the happiness of expressing appropriate love
- Happiness: The primary pleasant desire that motivates development
- Suffering: The primary unpleasant complaints that motivate development
- Consequences: All actions have consequences – irrelevant of intentions
Not all New Age activities lead towards individual or societal transformation. Immature people often appear to use New Age jargon to justify depressing, distressing or dissociated lifestyles. A shadow side of New Age may be people’s attempts to escape emotional and relationship issues by labeling strange ideas as “spirituality” and clinging to those ideas in ways rather similar to members of fundamental religions.
Abstract beliefs such as “Everything is love” or “We are all one anyway” may be used to justify foolish, dangerous or even criminal behavior. The consequences of such beliefs may include:
- Abuse of psychoactive drugs
- Promiscuity and venereal disease
- Naivety and diminished responsibility
- Becoming lost in abstract philosophies
- Becoming bonded and obedient to cult leaders
- Addiction to workshops about the latest craze (psychoholics)
New Age organizations often welcome the emotionally hurt who could not find solutions in Western medicine or clinical psychology. New Age members often advocate alternative holistic and natural healing practices such as massage, natural food, homeopathy, breathing and acupuncture.
New Agers often promote aboriginal healing traditions; and they may seek to integrate spirituality, divination, astrology, tarot readings and the like, with medicine, physics, psychiatry and psychotherapy. It seems that any combination can work … for a time!
Have you suffered enough to change?
Is our Systemic Coaching New Age?
Our coaching includes some New Age ideals while including and integrating paths of emotional, intellectual and spiritual development. Our work is focused on living lives that make sense, although we do not tell people what should make sense. Some ideas that make sense to most of us are:
- Physical comfort can include an awareness of coincidences
- Family togetherness can include respecting dead ancestors
- Respect for power can include protecting weaker members
- Stable security can include ongoing safety, justice and fairness
- Material success can include material donations to the community
- Community equality can include diverse interests and expressions
- Integrating complex systems can include participating in social projects
- Global citizenship can include a global spirituality that transcends religion
Your life may make more sense after you clarify your relationships, emotions, beliefs, guilt and conflicts. Members of New Age groups are attracted to systemic psychology to find practical ways to fulfill their emotional, relationship and spiritual goals.
Beyond all the religions and ideologies, beyond the dogma and myths,
you can transcend self-serving perspectives to become a global citizen.