Something is bugging me today. It’s about (what do you call it?) “new age spirituality.” I don’t even know what to call my own set of beliefs (not quite Buddhist, not quite anything else) so I’ll just call it new age – even though that term really bugs me.
I left the church years ago because I couldn’t find the Truth I needed in Christianity. I found these “new age” beliefs, like reincarnation and spiritual evolution, and they felt right. “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” I started telling people. I believe in God, but I also believe it’s very important to think for myself. I find spiritual truth through personal investigation and soul-searching.
What’s really bugging me now is that I find myself in another religion. The “new age movement,” once a bunch of rebels and spiritual pioneers, has become a religion with a set of creeds, scriptures and central leaders.
We don’t have the pope; we have Eckhart Tolle. (He’s not a bad guy; I’m just saying people believe what he says.) Instead of a bible, we have a recommended reading list. Our version of life after death is borrowed from Buddhism. Our pilgrimages end in Sedona rather than in Mecca.
Okay, so, having some common beliefs and structure is not so damaging. It’s everything else that has glommed onto the movement over the years.
This “spirituality” used to be about simple meditation, peace of mind, community support and connection to Nature. Now it has more to do with expensive retreats, crystals, attracting wealth and the latest book from the guru of the week. It’s become a very materialistic religion. It’s about having stuff – books, CD’s, nicknacks, drums, and what have you. These objects are intended, no doubt, to help us on our spiritual path toward greater wellness, peace of mind and spiritual connection. I’m just worried that we have placed too much emphasis on the stuff and not enough on the non-material connection we have, for free, with divine source.
I think one reason we have become so materialistic (besides the obvious neediness of Ego) is that some of us have chosen to make a living by helping people on their spiritual paths. And making a living requires one to charge money for things. Since I can’t charge money for someone sitting in a room alone meditating, I need to charge for books, seminars, and the other nicknacks of the spiritual trade.
I’d like to believe that most spiritual entrepreneurs honestly want to make a positive difference, help people, and earn the money that customers are paying. I know there’s nothing wrong with charging for products and services, no matter how “spiritual” they may be. But I also can’t help wondering if the soul train has gotten just a little off-track.
There’s all this talk about how you can’t have a successful life without lots of money, and people using spiritual concepts only to try and get more money for themselves… It just smells funny. The queasy feeling I used to get with church dogma, now turns my gut when someone tries to sell me a $300 rock that supposedly has spiritual powers.
I don’t have an answer. I’m still sorting out my thoughts on this. I would like to get your feedback. Surely I’m not the only one with an opinion around here. Fire away.