For those of us who grew up as teens in the early 2000s, you’ll likely remember the ‘New Age’ section of Barnes and Noble. Despite visiting many metaphysical, psychic, and spiritual bookstores, I, myself, was known to frequent the ‘New Age’ section of Barnes and Noble despite not having any real in-depth knowledge on the term ‘New Age’.
When you look it up, the definition, itself, lists the idea of ‘New Age’ practices as ‘hard to define’ because it’s a bunch of modern spiritual beliefs and religious practices all categorized together as something that is acceptably practiced but not mainstream. They were likely defined as ‘New Age’ since they rose to popularity in the 1970s and have been a very modern, new idea to the Western World (though many of its roots do honestly go back centuries). It’s likely all ideologies that we would have shunned, categorized as ‘occult’, and even persecuted centuries ago. But because in America and the Western World, we try now-a-days to be accepting of all, we lump in all that we don’t understand or can’t easily define as ‘New Age’. It’s effectively holistic ideas, spirituality, divination, mediumship, the paranormal, healing, and unifying science with spirituality. Does this make the term offensive, as it seems like the mainstream world’s way to lump all the practices they view as ‘different’ together?
Perhaps. Others have asked this question or shared this view, as when I walked into Barnes and Noble the other day, I found that they have changed the labelling of this section to ‘Self Transformation’ and ‘Personal Growth” with the range of what used to be considered ‘new age’ topics being spread out across these shelves. While referring to these topics as ‘Self Transformation’ and ‘Personal Growth’ is a much, much more accepting term, in my opinion, I also can’t help but laugh at it, as those terms still don’t even come close to defining most of the books and topics they throw together in that section. For instance, under ‘Self Transformation’ you’ll find the sub-labels of ‘Paranormal’ and ‘Ghost Stories’ which laughably shouldn’t be in a section mixed with ‘Self Transformation’ in my opinion.
How did the term morph from ‘New Age’ to ‘Self Transformation’? It’s not publicly stated, but I’d love to hear that details of that conversation if and when it ever becomes public. And while many facets of what used to be considered ‘New Age’ can easily fall into ‘Self Transformation’, perhaps, there still needs to be some work done so we don’t lump in meditation, dream analysis, secrets of the ancient worlds, occult studies, paranormal phenomena, ghosts, and divination all into one package.
Is the term ‘New Age’ offensive? Was it worth changing? Honestly, in my opinion the term itself isn’t offensive in the slightest, though lumping together anything non mainstream may be in its nature a bit tacky. However, if you do find it offensive, I offer you a different way to look at it. Back in 2020, I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Woodbury, a past-life regression expert, and he, in short, said the following idea to me. What used to be the old age was a time when people would go to Buddha, Jesus, Edgar Cayce, prophets, gods, or public figures, to do transcendental, metaphysical, or spiritual phenomenon for them. What separated out and defined the new age was when people realized that they could do these things themselves. They could go within, meditate, and find their own answers. It’s definitely an interesting way to look at it, and it is absolutely the way I look at the ‘old age’ versus the ‘new age’ definitions at this time.
Woodbury explained, “I think that we’re hungry to move beyond just the limitations of the ego mind. I believe that we’re wired for transcendence. We have a new age – in order to have a new age, there must have been an old age. I think in the previous age we weren’t accessing God from within. We’d go to Jesus and Buddha and Edgar Cayce, and they’d do the transcendent experience for us. But I think the new age is that it’s within us. And those people doing this type of work are trying to introduce people to the god within. It’s so much more than just a past life experience. It opens you up to a sense of awe of how much you can access from within yourself. You move into a broader consciousness, and it lingers. My hope is that people continue that. A regression is kind of like a spiked meditation. I’m really trying to introduce people to their soul consciousness and liberate them.”
You can read our full piece regarding our interview with Peter Woodbury and the A.R.E. here: https://www.maloriesadventures.com/blog/achieve-mind-body-and-spirit-health-at-edgar-cayces-association-for-research-and-enlightenment
It’s something to think on, for sure. But in the end, what does it matter what something is labeled. We should, instead, focus on these topics, what they mean to us, and how they can help us grow through understanding them.