Reading Through the Looking-Glass (And Getting A New-Age View)
Lately I’ve been reading a lot about New Age spirituality, which is about way more than wearing crystals and listening to Enya. The worldview that underpins New Age thinking is diverse and spiritually rich – whether you take it as truth about our metaphysical world or just a good fantasy story. To some it’s myth, and to some it’s fact, but either way it’s fascinating.
I’ve been delving into New Age belief as part of my latest writing project, a story set within a cult that blends extreme ecological ethics and a New Age mythos with a lifestyle and social structure vaguely reminiscent of fundamentalist Mormon sects. But the things I’ve been reading about dwell far afield from Mormonism. And since my writing has currently hit a bit of a block, I figured I might as well offer up my thoughts on the New Age books I’ve recently encountered, for your weekend reading pleasure.
The Age of Oprah: Cultural Icon for the Neoliberal Era by Janice Peck – A cultural-studies analysis of Oprah from a number of different perspectives – racial, economic, political, and spiritual included. This one doesn’t take a believer’s perspective. Rather, it’s told from the outside looking in, examining how Oprah’s fluffy spirituality actually covers a hard political edge of neo-liberal thinking.
That is, when Oprah preaches our individual responsibility for our own circumstances by promoting The Secret and insisting that our mental vibrations within the universe bring us positive or negative outcomes according to our thinking, she’s also giving society permission to ignore or avoid the suffering of the less fortunate among us. After all, they brought it on themselves with their thought vibrations.
Don’t expect this book to be a warm and fuzzy pro-Oprah read: it’s got a cover picture of her face on the one hundred dollar bill, for heaven’s sake. And expect it to think fairly critically about the New Age ideas it presents. But that’s not a bad thing – I’m a big believer in always thinking critically about all ideas, even the spiritual.
Beyond the Indigo Children: The New Children and the Coming of the Fifth World by P.M.H. Atwater – This is the one I read for fantasy-writing purposes, and it reads like a fantasy story: grand cosmology, hidden mystical powers, and the possibility of a grand triumph for humanity. And if you were born any time after 1982, you’re the hero of the story! Or at least, you’re part of it.
Basically, the author argues that we’re part of a human evolution, though she doesn’t believe we’ve reached Indigo status just yet. She thinks we’re gradually changing with each generation that goes by, and it’s all part of a great cosmic shift that encompasses astrology, the Mayan calendar and 2012, science, geopolitics, and religious trends. You name it, it’s here. And everything – from a resurgence of religious observance to the situation in the Middle East to the newest parenting trends – can be explained with reference to these new trends.
It may be that I read this book in a different way from how you will, since I was reading with a specific purpose in mind. I also took the author’s assertions with a grain of salt, and recommend that any reader do the same. But it makes a fascinating and truly creative story that any open-minded reader can enjoy poolside without committing to the worldview espoused in the pages.
Happy weekend, and happy reading!
Posted on June 10, 2011, in Other People's Business, Spiritual Wanderlust and tagged Janice Peck, myth, neoliberalism, New Age, Oprah, P.M.H. Atwater, The Secret. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.