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Why is New Age potentially dangerous?

Any ideology is “dangerous” if you take it too seriously. New Ageism has a bright side and a shadow side.

While New Ageism is perhaps primarily uplifting and beautiful, it has serious flaws, as every ideology does, and thus it can be misleading if taken too seriously. Enjoy it in grace, but don’t take it too seriously, don’t hit anyone over the head with it, don’t let it make you shallow, don’t use it to create hierarchies, and do be selective about which aspects of it you accept.

I would consider the shadow side of New Ageism more an annoyance than a danger. There are indeed some serious problems with New Ageism, including:

  • Solipsism, the belief that each of us is a discrete individual, yet as an individual, I am the only being here. That you are just a figment of my imagination. If that is so, then am I to believe that the universe is really so deceptive? Am I to believe there is no relationship? If it is so, then what is the point of service to others? Without a need to serve others, narcissism takes over. Solipsism is used as an excuse for every sort of wrongdoing and betrayal against others.

  • The absolute belief in manifestation through intention, that everything that happens to us is a result of original intention. Even if it is somewhat true, we would still manifest not only individually, but also collectively, and individuals are definitely impacted by the activities of other persons, and the collective activities of humanity, at least in the form of government, law, education, culture, mass communication, relationship, etc. We do not bring upon ourselves every single outcome! To say otherwise amounts to magical thinking and blaming the victim, and causes the New Ager to become an uncompassionate blamer.

  • If cultural appropriation is a thing, then New Ageism is very guilty of it, appropriating components of virtually all cultures and mixing it together into a globalized (bastardized?) amalgamation, failing to hold true to original traditions. Some devotees of original traditions resent this, including some native Americans. At the very least, I would say that respect for original traditions is appropriate, and not to take their most sacred rites out of context. If we’re going to use an element of another tradition, we should at least take time to truly understand its meaning.

  • Positivism, the habit of surrounding oneself only with people who say and do only beautiful things (which makes them shallow and inauthentic), abandoning those who are suffering grief or sadness, which amounts to abandoning our friends in their moment of need. If you are a real friend, you must be there for your friends whether they are having a good day or a bad day—and especially if they're having a bad day! Positivism causes friendships to become shallow, and positivists to become false friends.

  • Religious belief in the quantum physics observer effect. While that may be a useful mind-expanding exercise, it is sometimes upheld as dogma. Isn’t it supposed to be an eye opener? But it too often turns out to be a stricture. While the universe might be a hologram, practical considerations still matter more than thought experiments. Wounds still need to be healed. The rent still needs to be paid. The children still need to be fed. We all still need a healthy diet. It still matters whether the salmon are coming back.

  • “Abandon duality”. As a Taoist, I studied this New Age assertion for many years with interest, struggling to find validity in it, but I could not. Ultimately, I found it completely empty. The whole New Age doctrine of abandoning duality is nonsense. (If it means “avoid black and white thinking”, then I agree. Who does that?) However, all too often, it simply asserts that duality is unevolved, and abandoning it is evolved, and leaves it at that—a groundless assertion, held as absolute fact (judging anyone who disagrees). It includes abandoning morality: “There is no right or wrong.” However, that is nonsense. Murder, theft, and slavery are wrong—period. In the context of this “abandon duality” assertion, thinking is apparently optional. There is no evidence for this assertion whatsoever, yet it is upheld as an absolute. In reality, without duality, balance is impossible, and all organic life would die. The healthy goal is to find balance between dual poles (in terms of heat, light, moisture, salinity, etc.), not deny or abandon the dual poles. We cannot do so and yet survive, so “abandon duality” is a ruse targeting persons who are spiritually gullible.

  • Contradictorily, while advocating for the abandonment of duality, New Agers also practice light chasing. Like Abrahamic monotheism, Zoroastrianism, Atonism, and Mithraism (unlike Taoism), New Ageism identifies light as “good”, and darkness as “evil”, and pursues light to the exclusion of darkness. In a spiritual context, “light” and “dark” are only symbolic. New Agers seem to forget that, thus advocating for a polar extreme, and becoming extremists. Continuing the pursuit leads to escalating imbalance, and therefore malaise. Without the coolness and moisture of darkness, all life would perish. In order to thrive, we need a balance between light and darkness. That is why clouds are beautiful. Light/yang is not good; and darkness/yin is not evil. Evil is more akin to extremism (pursuing either pole absolutely). Good is more akin to balance between them. Good and evil do not counterbalance each other. Light and dark do. Therefore light chasing is evil (unhealthy). Author Debbie Ford explores this in further detail in her book “Dark Side of the Light Chasers”. New Ageism (and monotheism) didn’t get the memo.

  • Etc.

Every good thing in our world can be, and probably has been, co-opted by insidious forces, if not to perpetrate an evil agenda, at least to deprive good things of their power to deliver benefit.

by Proff


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