Summary of Chapter 8: A SEPARATE UNIVERSE—THE NEW AGE (Pgs.136-170)


            In order to embrace the East, Sire argues, that one must die to the West (i.e., to its way of thinking).  That’s essentially what the New Age (NA) is all about.  While difficult to define as a movement, since the 1990’s, through the likes of Marilyn Ferguson, Ken Wilbur and Shirley MacLaine, the NA has infiltrated every sector of Western society.

The NA influence is evident in areas of psychology, sociology, anthropology, the natural sciences, the health field, our politics, entertainment, movies and even in sports (Pgs.140-144).  Of the many examples, I’ll focus on three that Sire provides.

One example is in the area of psychology where people like William James, C.G. Jung and Abraham Maslow have argued for the validity of altered states of consciousness (drugs are often used here to expand our understanding of the universe).  Another example is in anthropology, where Carlos Castaneda’s books focus on the use of psychedelic drugs in Indian culture and reveal that he himself was the apprentice of Don Juan, a Yaqui Indian sorcerer.  Castaneda’s alleged experiences brought him into new realities and separate universes.  A third example can be found in our entertainment—movies.  Here the NA influence can be seen in George Lucas’ Star Wars Series where divine power (i.e., The Force) is much like the Hindu Brahman who uses both good and evil to sustain a balance in the universe (e.g., Yoda).

The NA’s relationship to other worldviews is that it embraces them all to one degree or another.  That is, they are syncretistic and eclectic, but deny that there’s any transcendent god (unless it’s the individual) and affirm that we live in a closed system.  Moreover, like the East, the NA rejects reason as a means or guide to reality, but nevertheless uses it to advance their position.  That is, distinctions are the problem rather than the solution to problems (yet they use reason to persuade skeptics).        

Sire also points out that animism is massive in the NA where the spirit world and spirit entities are guides to understanding our many—reincarnated past lives (Pgs.144-145).  The NA has several pillars of thought that govern it’s thinking and hold up their structure of reality.

The first pillar is that the nature of being ultimately finds its base in the self.  That is, since the self is king, one can create their own reality from within their conscience and no one can refute it as reality because it’s a private experience.  What’s unfortunate is that self-deception is a very present danger here (Pgs.147-149).

The second pillar is that the cosmos being unified in the self is manifest through both ordinary consciousness and altered states.  This can be accomplished through meditation, drugs, acupuncture, etc.  The mind is a powerful tool for molding reality to our liking and is limitless (Pgs.150-151).  Light and colors, alien populations and guardians (demonic spirits) obtain, they are real and they help us make the most out of our lives.

The third pillar is that cosmic consciousness in space and time disappear along with morality.  Here there’s no such thing as good and evil, there’s just the illusion of such.  To experience cosmic consciousness is akin to Atman as Brahman.  Once again, this invites self-deception.

The fourth pillar is that physical death is not the end of the self, thus the fear of death is vanquished either through many re-incarnations, or the “evidence” from people’s near-death-experiences (NDE).  Transitions from one life form into another are thus good news, but Sire has argued that this view has been placed on “the scales and found wanting”.

The fifth pillar is that reality comes either under an occultic, psychedelic, or relativistic version.  Under the occultic version, one experiences a spirit guide through the use of tarot cards, mediums, crystal balls, etc., for direction in life.  Here, even NA advocates warn of danger if a person is not properly prepared they could invite all kinds of heel into their lives.  Under the psychedelic version, a person takes drugs like LSD in order to experience an altered state of consciousness in order to peer into new realities.  And under the relativistic version, there’s the expression of disjunction between objective and perceived reality where a symbol system of reality is merely substituted for another symbol system (i.e., one vision of reality replaces another vision of reality).

Sire concludes that the New Age has many problems such as their denial of a transcendent God, the self being the measure of reality and thus good and evil vanish.  Also, dabbling in the spirit world with entities can be very dangerous, even landing adherents in a mad ward.  Moreover, the nature of reality and truth end in epistemological nihilism because the self is the measure of all things, not the Creator.  Thus, our experiences derive “meaning” purely arbitrarily without any real grounds.  That’s bad news.         

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