ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
Other aspects of esotericism are either universal or of Western origin. Indeed, most people, including unbelievers, are attracted by at least some aspects of esotericism and the occult, whether it is by the séance in which mediums profess to communicate with the departed, the reading of tarot cards or tea leaves, or one’s horoscope in the daily paper. Many people resort to tarot readers, crystal ball gazers, tea leaf readers, and palmists for advice. These techniques are called scrying. Scoffers reject them as superstition, but even the most rationalistic among us often have private magical rituals, words or gestures for good luck or to stave off bad luck; amulets or good-luck pieces. Such rituals and objects help us feel better when we are about to confront a risky situation. A well-wisher may say “break a leg” to us, an old good-luck charm, just before we go on stage to perform. When we are seated on a plane about to take off, we might murmur a prayer, or perhaps have a lucky coin in wallet or purse.
I never have met anyone who was wholly without superstition. One of the most superstitious of persons was Sigmund Freud, who, despite being a professed atheist, had many private rituals to help him cope with his anxieties about train travel, for instance, and who was convinced that he was going to die at age sixty. (Indeed, he contracted cancer of the jaw when he was about that age, which plagued him for the last sixteen years of his life.) Freud openly acknowledged his own superstitions, and argued that such beliefs are common to humanity.
We all fear the unknown. Indeed, the word anxiety itself provides the clue. Unlike fear which is fright that is focused and well defined, anxiety is “a state of being uneasy, apprehensive, or worried about what may happen” (Webster New World Dictionary), nameless dread, unformed apprehension, as when one is about to submit to a medical examination. In large measure, occult practices have the psychological effect of tranquillizers. Occult rituals are ways which we adopt to overcome dis-ease. Indeed, both religion and the occult may have begun in this way and for this reason. We all want reassurance. We all need something to get us through the night.
The principal vehicle of the psychic is the occult bookstore and the store where tarot cards, crystals, and other such items are sold and where there are readers and channelers. New Age book stores may advertise “inspiring books on creativity, healthy living, feng shui, prosperity, personal & spiritual growth, aromatherapy, astrology, martial arts, world spirituality, and yoga, as well as offer jewelry, music. cards, candles, incense, angels, and water fountains. The yellow pages in the telephone directory of any large city list many psychics who offer their services for fees. Winnipeg’s classified advertisements, for instance, lists “Adam’s Readings: Winnipeg’s Most Respected Psychic: Clairvoyant & Spiritual Consultant; Tarot Readings and Psychic Consultations.” One can arrange to have a phone reading for $2.99 per minute. Madame Maria, Psychic-Shaman, advertises “Spirit Readings - Counselling - Advise knowledge of Angels- Wax - Magic - Etc.” One can consult Mary Wilson’s “7th Sense: Intensive Sessions Se’er-Seeker – Healer,” who offers “Past Life Exploration” and who manages a Celestial Stone Crystal & Gift Shop. The foregoing gives us a strong impression