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ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE

persons of the godhead. “[avatara meaning  ava-, down + tarat, he goes down, passes beyond] 1. In Hindu religion, a god’s coming down in bodily form to the earth; incarnation. 2. An embodiment; bodily manifestation.” Webster’s New World Dictionary]. Most New Age Pagans regard the deities as symbols. While most have a predominantly Western orientation and do not necessarily use the Sanskrit term avatar themselves, they mean the same thing using other words. It is a familiar concept in world religions. The Neo-Pagan deity ultimately transcends all personifications, specific manifestations in time/space, and is beyond all philosophical concepts or scientific evidence.

New Age Cosmology

Most New Agers have a high regard for natural science, and interpret it as a legitimate way to discover truth. They are distinguished, however, for inviting scientists to apply their techniques to the spiritual realm, arguing that if they do they will find the evidence for psychic phenomena to be overwhelming. Thus while New Agers reject positivism, they contend that rational/empirical explorations which are not biased by negative presuppositions will prove the reality of the unseen.

New Agers characteristically have a positive view of physical reality, unlike Gnostics, who view it negatively. They hold that while the world is far from perfect, it is the means for spiritual realities which transcend time/space. New Agers reveal their Gnosticism, however, in their assertion that embodied existence on this plane of reality allows only limited consciousness. There are many parallel worlds in the New Age complex, a view shared with Hindus and Buddhists as well as the Gnostics, and, indeed, philosophically-minded New Agers draw heavily on Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism in this respect. There are, many of them contend, many levels of spirituality in this hierarchical universe.

This line of thought, as we have seen, stems from reading Poimandres and other Hermetic texts, Pistis Sophia and other Gnostic scriptures, also the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and other Hindu writings, plus study of the Lotus Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, the Tibetan scriptures, the Tao The King, the Ch’uang Tze, and other Chinese Taoist texts. In short, New Agers are keenly interested in mystical writings of all kinds which they read devotionally rather than critically.

New Age Metaphysics

Nothing that I have read in New Age literature fully explains its metaphysical concepts. At the time of writing, the only scholarly study concerning New Age is Walter Hanegraaf’s New Age Religion and Western Culture (1996). It is an excellent source, but does not present a detailed view of New Age metaphysics. Neither do the popular New Age paperbacks and magazines. Instead, they emphasize experience rather than speculation. This does not, however, mean that the New Age ontology is beyond statement and discussion. The following is my own attempt to do so, largely based on inferences and parallels from the various sources which New Age intellectuals study, e.g. the Upanishads and other Hindu/Buddhist scriptures.

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