Tarot Cards & The Occult

Adis K.

5 Key Explorations into the New Age: Ancient Spiritual Practices in Modern Times

Mysticism, New Age, Spirituality

In the ever-evolving tapestry of human spirituality, practices once considered ancient have been rebranded, repackaged, and reintroduced to contemporary seekers. From the sacred rituals of ancestral tribes to today’s widespread fascination with the Law of Attraction, we observe a continuum of humanity’s quest to understand, influence, and connect with the unseen forces that govern existence.

This article delves into the rich history of such practices, tracing their origins and enduring allure. Yet, it’s essential to approach with discernment, as many of these practices, when viewed through biblical teachings, align with what scripture warns against as witchcraft and occultism. Join us as we explore the world of ancient traditions in modern times and weigh them against the timeless guidance of biblical wisdom.

1. Origins and Evolution of the New Age Movement: A Timeline

Late 1800s:

  • Spiritualism and Theosophy: The spiritualist movement, which involved séances and communication with the dead, became popular, particularly in the US and UK. The Theosophical Society, founded in 1875 by Helena Blavatsky, began to amalgamate Eastern and Western spiritual concepts.

Early 1900s:

  • Metaphysical Schools and Movements: New Thought, emphasizing positive thinking and the law of attraction, began to gain traction. Organisations like the Church of Divine Science and Unity Church played roles in this movement.

1960s to 1970s:

  • Counter-culture and Eastern Spirituality: Western youth, disillusioned with organised religion and societal norms, turned to Eastern religions, mysticism, and psychoactive drugs for spiritual experiences. The Beatles’ visit to India in 1968 and association with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi popularised Transcendental Meditation.

1970s to 1980s:

  • Emergence of the Term “New Age”: The term began to be widely used to describe a broad movement focused on spiritual growth, holistic health, and global peace. Based on the Mayan calendar, the Harmonic Convergence event in 1987 attracted international attention.
  • Literature and Media: Books like “The Aquarian Conspiracy” by Marilyn Ferguson (1980) significantly promoted New Age ideas. Shirley MacLaine’s books and mini-series “Out on a Limb” (1987) brought New Age concepts to mainstream audiences.

1990s to 2000s:

  • Commercialization and Pop Culture: The New Age Movement started becoming a profitable market, with shops, fairs, and online platforms selling related products. Movies such as “What the Bleep Do We Know!?” (2004) explored themes resonating with the New Age. Oprah Winfrey notably endorsed books and speakers promoting New Age or related spiritual ideas through her media platforms.
  • Books and Seminars: The book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne (2006), which emphasised the Law of Attraction, became a massive bestseller backed by a promotional push on major media platforms.

2010s to Present:

  • Digital Age Spirituality: The internet, especially platforms like YouTube and Instagram, gave rise to influencers promoting New Age practices, from crystal healing to guided meditations. Celebrities openly embracing and endorsing such practices further mainstreamed the movement.
  • Integration in Wellness and Lifestyle: The boundaries between New Age practices, wellness, and self-help blurred, with yoga and mindfulness meditation becoming widely adopted even outside spiritual contexts.

Mainstream Media and Pop Culture Embrace New Age

Movies and TV Shows:
  • “Doctor Strange” (2016): A Marvel film showcasing a brilliant neurosurgeon’s journey into the mystic arts, exploring parallel dimensions, astral projection, and Eastern mysticism.
  • “Stranger Things” (2016-): This series introduced the concept of the “Upside Down,” a parallel dimension, and dabbled with psychic abilities in its young protagonist, Eleven.
  • “Avatar” (2009): Although slightly before the 2010s, it’s a notable representation of a deep spiritual connection with nature and the planet Pandora’s interconnected energy.
  • “Inception” (2010): Delving into the dream world, lucid dreaming, and layered realities.
  • “The OA” (2016-2019): A series dealing with near-death experiences, interdimensional travel, and group ritual dances as a form of spiritual communication.
  • “Outlander” (2014-): Elements of druid rituals, ancient stone circles, and time travel based on spiritual lore.
  • “The Midnight Gospel” (2020): An animated series that dives deep into existential, spiritual, and metaphysical topics in each episode.
  • “Sense8” (2015-2018): The show’s premise revolves around eight strangers from different parts of the world who share a psychic connection.
  • “A Wrinkle in Time” (2018): Touching on tesseracts, multidimensional travel, and spiritual warfare against darkness.
  • “The Witcher” (2019-): Steeped in ancient myths, prophecies, magic, and the conflict between destiny and free will.
Celebrity Endorsements:
  • Oprah Winfrey: Through her media empire, Oprah has introduced millions to spiritual teachings, often showcasing authors and spiritual leaders on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and later on the “SuperSoul Sunday” series.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow: Through her wellness and lifestyle brand, Goop, she has promoted everything from crystals to psychic readings to energy healing.
  • Russell Brand: The comedian and actor openly discusses his spiritual journey, battles with addiction, and transformation through Eastern spirituality and meditation.
  • Sam Harris: Although known as a critic of organised religion, Harris promotes meditation and has written about spirituality without religion, particularly embracing practices from Buddhism.
  • Jim Carrey: Over the years, Carrey has spoken about his spiritual awakenings, challenges, and how they’ve impacted his perspective on fame, success, and existence.
  • Katy Perry: The pop star has been open about her ventures into transcendental meditation, stating it helps her find relaxation and creative inspiration.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio: A well-known environmental activist, his spiritual connection to nature is evident in his endeavours to combat climate change.
  • Jessica Alba: The actress founded “The Honest Company,” which emphasises natural products and has spoken about the spiritual philosophies that guide her life.
  • Madonna: While she delved into Kabbalah in the 2000s, her spiritual explorations and incorporating various traditions into her music have continued.
  • Alanis Morissette: The singer has often talked about her spiritual journey, exploring themes of enlightenment, self-realisation, and healing in her music.

In both pop culture and the personal lives of celebrities, it’s evident how ancient spiritual concepts, practices, and rituals have permeated and influenced modern society. Whether through filmic narratives or personal endorsements, these ideas are presented, explored, and often celebrated, connecting age-old wisdom to contemporary audiences.

2. The Pagan Roots of Modern Spirituality: Unveiling the Ancient Echoes

New Age spirituality, often viewed as a modern innovation, is profoundly rooted in ancient civilisations’ rituals, beliefs, and practices. This deeper dive aims to unveil the intricate web linking contemporary spiritual trends with their ancient predecessors, illustrating that today’s practices are not novel but reinventions of ancient traditions.

Crystals, Amulets, and the Power of Earth

  • Ancient Use: From the Egyptian use of turquoise and lapis lazuli as protective amulets to the Greco-Roman belief in the healing properties of crystals, the mystique of gemstones spans cultures and epochs.
  • Modern Take: Today’s crystal healing therapies mirror these ancient beliefs, attributing different properties to each stone for healing, protection, or spiritual elevation.

The Universal Appeal of Dream Catchers

  • Ancient Use: Dream catchers trace back to Native American traditions, primarily the Ojibwa (Chippewa) nation. However, protective talismans and symbols designed to ward off evil or attract good fortune are universal and found in cultures worldwide.
  • Modern Take: Dream catchers are now popularised as New Age artifacts, adorning spaces as spiritual tools and decorative items.

Saging, Incense, and the Sacred Smoke

  • Ancient Use: Burning herbs and resins for religious purposes was widespread. The ancient Egyptians used incense in rituals, while the Romans purified their temples with sage. These practices aimed to cleanse spaces, invite divine presence or accompany prayers.
  • Modern Take: Saging, or smudging, is now a prevalent New Age ritual believed to cleanse spaces of negative energies.

Yoga, Meditation, and the Ancient Quest for Enlightenment

  • Ancient Use: Predating even some of the earliest Hindu scriptures, yoga was a practice of melding the mind, body, and spirit. Similarly, meditative practices find mentions in various ancient traditions, from Vedic Hinduism to Taoism and early Christianity.
  • Modern Take: Yoga and meditation have transcended their religious origins to become universal practices for mental well-being and spiritual exploration
New Age Movement: convergence of ancient and modern - Adis Reckons

Spirituality and Polytheism

  • Ancient Use: Ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and many other cultures revered multiple deities, each governing different facets of life and nature. Rituals, festivals, and ceremonies were dedicated to these gods and goddesses.
  • Modern Take: While not directly worshipping these deities, many New Age practices encourage connecting with ‘universal energies’ or archetypal forces reminiscent of ancient polytheistic beliefs.

Shamanism, Mushrooms, and Altered States of Consciousness

  • Ancient Use: Indigenous cultures worldwide had shamans who would traverse spiritual realms using natural psychedelics, rhythmic dancing, or other techniques. These journeys could bring healing, prophecies, or spiritual insights.
  • Modern Take: The use of psychedelics in spiritual exploration and the rise of neo-shamanism echo these ancient practices.

3. The Diverse Faces of Spiritism

Ancestral Worship and Communication

  • Ancient Use: Many ancient civilisations, including the Egyptians, Chinese, and various African tribes, revered their ancestors. They believed that these spirits played an active role in the daily lives of the living, often offering sacrifices or holding ceremonies in their honour.
  • Modern Take: While direct ancestral worship has diminished in many cultures, the respect for ancestors and the belief in their ongoing presence remain, especially in rituals or special family occasions.

Oracles and Prophets

  • Ancient Use: The Pythia, the Delphic Oracle in ancient Greece, was believed to communicate messages from the god Apollo. Similarly, biblical prophets, like Samuel or Elijah, were considered conduits for the word of God.
  • Modern Take: Channelers or mediums in the New Age movement often claim to receive messages from higher entities or spirits, echoing the role of ancient oracles and prophets.

Necromancy and Divination

  • Ancient Use: Practices like necromancy—consulting the dead for prophecy—can be found in various cultures. The biblical account of King Saul consulting the Witch of Endor is a notable example.
  • Modern Take: Séances and specific psychic readings, attempting to contact the deceased or tap into the ‘other side’, can be seen as modern forms of necromancy.

Totemism and Spirit Animals

  • Ancient Use: Indigenous cultures, notably Native American tribes, believed in totem spirits or spirit animals. These spirits were guides, protectors, or bearers of specific messages.
  • Modern Take: The concept of spirit animals or guides has been integrated into New Age spirituality, with individuals seeking insights from their personal spirit animals or guides.

Ghosts, Apparitions, and Hauntings

  • Ancient Use: Beliefs in restless or vengeful spirits can be found across cultures, from the tales of Roman lemures to Asian beliefs in ancestral spirits visiting during festivals like the Hungry Ghost Festival.
  • Modern Take: The fascination with ghosts continues, evident in ghost-hunting TV shows, paranormal investigations, and popular literature.

Spiritism, in its many forms, is a testament to humanity’s enduring fascination with the unseen realm and the spirits that inhabit it. From ancient necromancers to modern mediums, the quest to bridge the physical and the spiritual, the living and the dead, remains a poignant and universal aspect of the human experience.

4. Law of Attraction and Ancient Manifestation Rituals

  • Rooted in ancient beliefs about aligning with cosmic energies.
  • Modern practices emphasise thought power, visualisation, and affirmations.

New Age spirituality is a tapestry interwoven with threads from ancient pagan traditions, mystery religions, and indigenous practices. While modern in presentation, its essence relates to humanity’s age-old quest for understanding, meaning, and transcendence. Understanding these roots deepens one’s appreciation of current practices and places them within the rich, diverse continuum of human spiritual expression.

Ancient Egyptian Rituals:

The ancient Egyptians believed in the power of words, thoughts, and rituals. They practised a form of manifestation known as “heka,” which combined spoken words, chants, and physical rituals to manifest desires. Statues, amulets, and talismans were also charged to protect, heal, or bring prosperity.

Vedic and Hindu Practices:

In ancient India, the concept of “Sankalpa” (intention) was fundamental. Vedic rituals often started with a Sankalpa, a declaration of purpose or meaning. The power of mantra (sacred chanting) was also employed to attract desires or elevate consciousness, embodying the principle that sound vibrations can influence reality.

Greek and Roman Visualization:

Both Greek and Roman traditions incorporated visualization techniques in their spiritual practices. They believed that envisioning a desired outcome could bring it to fruition. Temples, sacred sites, and oracles also manifested desires through prayer and offering.

Native American and Indigenous Ceremonies:

Many indigenous tribes held ceremonies to manifest desires—whether for a successful hunt, healing, or favourable weather. Ritual dances, chants, and the creation of sacred objects were integral to these practices. The intention was to align with nature and spiritual forces.

Middle Ages and Renaissance Magic:

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, alchemists, mystics, and magicians used symbols, sigils, and rituals to manifest desires. They believed that aligning with celestial events, like specific planetary alignments, could enhance the power of their manifestations.

Modern Interpretation and The Law of Attraction:

Today, the Law of Attraction emphasises positive thinking, visualization, and gratitude. Affirmations, vision boards, and meditation are often recommended as tools. While the methods might differ from ancient practices, the foundational belief remains: aligning one’s energy and intent can influence outcomes.

From the banks of the Nile to the Vedic fire altars to the modern seminar rooms, the idea that thoughts, intentions, and rituals have the power to shape our reality is a universal thread throughout human history. The Law of Attraction, as understood today, is but the latest iteration of this timeless and deeply rooted belief.

5. Convergence with Biblical Teachings

The broad expanse of practices, rituals, and beliefs detailed throughout this exploration—ranging from ancient Egyptian chants to the modern Law of Attraction—all share foundational parallels. When viewed through the lens of the Bible, many of these practices are unmistakably and categorically labelled as witchcraft and occult endeavours.

Biblical Definitions:

The Bible, across both the Old and New Testaments, repeatedly warns against engaging in practices that seek knowledge or power from sources other than God. The Mosaic Law, as detailed in books such as Leviticus and Deuteronomy, explicitly condemns divination, necromancy, and sorcery. The Apostle Paul, in his epistles, admonishes the early Christian communities to avoid practices that align with the ‘works of the flesh’, which include “witchcraft” (Galatians 5:19-21).

An Age-Old Temptation:

Humanity’s yearning to understand the mysteries of existence, to gain foresight, or to manifest desires is not new. Yet, the Bible warns that seeking these powers or insights outside God’s guidance or using them to circumvent His will can lead individuals astray. From the allure of the serpent in Eden offering “knowledge” to the story of King Saul’s desperate consultation with the Witch of Endor, the scriptures consistently caution against such pursuits.

Repackaged for the Modern Era:

While these spiritual practices’ methods, names, and presentations have evolved and been repackaged over time, their essence remains unchanged. Though seemingly harmless or beneficial, the contemporary fascination with crystals, dream catchers, or the Law of Attraction can be viewed as modern continuations of ancient practices the Bible advised against.

Conclusion:

In recognizing the convergence of ancient and modern spiritual practices with biblical teachings, it’s evident that many cherished contemporary practices fall under the broad umbrella of what scripture might define as witchcraft or occult activities. It is crucial to approach these practices with informed discernment, weighing their allure against the consistent warnings found in biblical teachings.

For a more in-depth exploration of these warnings and a clearer understanding of the biblical stance on such practices, refer to our previous article:

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