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Marija Dalbello Reading Interests of Adults New Age

Image credit: Victor GAD. Marija Dalbello Reading Interests of Adults New Age. Rutgers School of Communication and Information dalbello@rutgers.edu. Overview _______________________________________ Introduction What is New Age, and New Age fiction? Genre characteristics and appeal

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Marija Dalbello Reading Interests of Adults New Age

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  1. Image credit: Victor GAD Marija Dalbello Reading Interests of Adults New Age Rutgers School of Communication and Informationdalbello@rutgers.edu

  2. Overview • _______________________________________ • Introduction • What is New Age, and New Age fiction? • Genre characteristics and appeal • New Age Movements, a History • Types of New Age fiction • Conclusion: The Age of Aquarius, are we there yet?

  3. What is “New Age” movement • Definitions _______________________________________ • The term (especially as in “the New Age Movement”) has come to be used to designate those who maintain that inner spirituality - embedded within the self and the natural order as a whole - serves as the key to moving from all that is wrong with life to all that is right. (Heelas, p. 16) • New Age is an overall attitude and context of spirituality in response to the cultural uncertainty of our times

  4. What is “New Age” fiction • Definitions _______________________________________ • “New Age fiction is a meeting point of science fiction and mythical reality … expresses a belief that a collaborated spiritual evolution outside of religion is not only possible, but likely.” • “The genre itself is rather vague […] you can stretch it to include other realms, different states of being, space/time continuums, spirit entities, supra-consciousness and such phenomena—what is obvious is a desire to explore the higher reaches of human potential. It’s almost there, the gift of wings, words that render asunder the mask of reality and touch the core of that unknown, unsought ecstasy. You reach out, the elastic universe stretches to its brink. Then it snaps. So close, yet so far away.” From: “New Age Fiction: The Word According to God,” by Anupama Bhattacharya

  5. What is New Age • Spirituality genres _______________________________________ • Spirituality genres share concern with the numinous • Religious fiction, horror, New Age - commonalities and distinctions: • Theism (allows for explanation of God transcending human comprehension) • New age works within human measure (God cannot exceed human comprehension) • In horror, there is no God, just anxiety about the numinous, some scientific resolution possible but God is also above human comprehension) • New Age fiction presents simplified wisdom, popular and populist spirituality accessible to everyone

  6. What is New Age fiction? • _______________________________________ • Eclectic avant-garde literature, genre vague but spiritualism important • On mind-games, altered consciousness, beyond the limit • Syncretism, eclecticism, even consumerism • Examples: from H. Hesse’s Siddhartha to P. Coelho’s Alchemist • Term with present meaning from 1971 but roots much older • Genre associated with secular modernity • Identity crisis product, loss of community • Rooted in two key utopian ideologies of modernity

  7. What is New Age • Utopian ideologies of modernity _______________________________________ • Utopianism of the Enlightenment Project and Theistic Utopianism • Motto of secular Enlightenment: “Have courage to use your own reason!” • De-traditionalized new age *monism • Simplifying wisdom so that it can be accessible to everybody • Changing the world and collective consciousness • But is that possible? • *monism=unity

  8. Traditional Theism (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) External authority, dogma, doctrine Anthropomorphic gods Theism Monism (New Age) Self-directedness Teachers and leaders Monism • What is New Age • New Age, Theism, Enlightenment • _______________________________________ Secularism (Enlightenment project) • Science • Education • Rationalism

  9. Traditional Theism (Christianity) God is more than we can be Christians seek salvation through worship, prayer, obedience, discipline of self Understanding of texts New Age God in new age is in essence what we already are New age actualization through working on ego-attachments to master what is inside Inner experience (Ego of New ager is intrinsically good) • What is New Age • New Age and Traditional Theism • _______________________________________

  10. De-traditionalized self (need to shed ego-constraints brought about by socialization and institutions) Perennialism (wisdom is found at the heart of all religious traditions) Internalized form of religiosity Autonomy and freedom highly valued Authority lies within the experience of the Self or the natural realm Self-ethic important Self-responsibility Operation on the experiential level • What is New Age • Characteristics, outlook and appeal • _______________________________________

  11. Genre characteristics and appeal • What readers like _______________________________________ • Interest in the possibilities of human consciousness • Reaching and expression of human potential • Self-directed discovery and exploration • In-between reality and mysticism • Story line is secondary • Message is primary • Bad fiction?

  12. Historical development _______________________________________ • 18th and 19th century Romanticism • Deists, freethinkers, Swedenborgians • Influence of eastern philosophies • Rejection of religion • Sacralized rendering of nature, esoteric themes • Self-spirituality of the Romantic movement • The London Theosophical Society (1783) • Founded by Jacob Duche • William Blake • 19th and 20th century: Counter-culture of fin-de-siècle and beyond • Mme Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society • Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (1888) • Alesteir Crowley • Joined Ordo Templi Orientis (German occult order) in 1912 • Founds Abbey of Thelema in Sicily (magical community to launch a new era) in 1922 • Secret societies • Mirra Alfassa (Auroville, Pondicherry) (1968)

  13. Historical development _______________________________________ • Beginnings: Theosophical Society • Most influential 19th century rendering of New Age • Mme Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891) • Fundamental Unity of all existence • Faith in peremnialized outlook on religious traditions • International off-shoots • Archetypal symbols • Carl Jung (1885-1961) • Archetypes - perennial components of the human psyche • The Red Book • New age repertoire established by the 1920s • Gurdjieff (1866-1949) • Taught that we are able to achieve enlightened state (objective consciousness) but imprisoned in external circumstances • Emphasis on transformational techniques • est and other seminars focusing on the harmonious development • Formative for new age repertoire

  14. Historical development _______________________________________ • Counterculture movements: The Age of Aquarius • 1960s: Commune movements • 1970s: Institutionalization of counter-cultures • Changing the mainstream, civil rights movement • est (Erhard Seminar Training), Landmark Foundation, THP • Countercultural spirituality since the “sixties” • Alternative values and experiences but not dropping out of society • Anti-modernist • Harmonial spirituality (seminars, prosperity) • Entitlement • Matching internal / external processes • Holistic interconnectedness • Prosperity beyond the counter-culture • Self-spirituality in the corporate context • est-influenced movements (THP) • Gurdjieff-inspired Krone Associates (for Pacific Bell) • Specialized training, events, business • Publications directed at business people

  15. Types of New Age fiction _______________________________________ • Literature of unbridled optimism -feel-good reads • Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull • Khalil Gibran, Prophet • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Little Prince • The Tao of Pooh • Guiding the collective evolution • James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy • Guiding self-development (on a journey) • Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist • Spirit speak and sacred traditions • Leo Tolstoy, Resurrection • Priscilla Cogan, Winona’s Web • Carlos Castaneda, Teachings of Don Juan • And everything else: utopias, esoteric, altered states • Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis • Herman Hesse, Siddhartha, Glass Bead Game, Steppenwolf • Aldous Huxley, The Island

  16. Conclusion • _______________________________________ • New Age fiction is a by-product of Enlightenment utopianism • Spirituality genre, similar to horror and religious fiction • New Agers are secular, optimistic, western, and liberal • New Agers are eclectic in their spiritual practices • New Age is commercially viable • Secular religiosity at its core • A product of mass culture • Life-positive, right?

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