In this study, I have tried to put a psychodynamic-psychoanalytic break over the phenomenon of new age/newness. To theorize about "a continuum" in how followers are able to manage and live with this world of imagination.
It has been my desire to broaden the psychological perspective of new age/newness. To consider and acknowledge, and try to explain, some of the difficulties or challenges that lie in this world of imagination and that are probably true at the group level. But that depending on different factors, "personal maturity", it does not have to be problematic for the individual.
Personality is put under extra high pressure from the doctrine, but the outcome is still not given. Freud's critique of religiosity is still relevant to describe the potentially problematic aspects of religion and spirituality. Later psychoanalysts have nuanced the picture and been able to shed light on even the other end of this continuum.
The question of new age/newness is a heterogeneous phenomenon, "a smorgasbord", or whether, despite the many different expressions, it is, after all, a homogeneous phenomenon? Maybe both are right.
Is new age/newness a danger to public health, as Granqvist (ref)claims? At the group level, that's probably true, but it's valuable to emphasize and try to deepen understanding of the individual level. Because these observations are probably not true.
The current man's situation has a lot in common with the new age/ newness. The denial of basic human conditions is akin. This is something natural to resist, which goes incrementally through life – children, teens, young adults, etc. – and concerns personal maturity. But one could argue that the people of our time are making extra resistance to aging, weakness, fragility. That's our usual denial for the longest. With the typical new age/new-age notions "reinforced" these defenses can become an aggravating factor for ordinary life maturity. Farias &granqvist's findings are worth taking seriously.
It is possible to understand the popularity of newness in light of the moods of our time. But it is also possible to understand something more generally about our present and our living conditions based on studies in newness. The stresses to which followers are exposed, from the environment as well as from their own interior, have much in common with the challenge of living and maturing in perhaps above all the Western Cultural Sphere. Newness makes certain mental processes more visible.
"Tolerance of ambiguity" is an important marker.
Why does new age/newness upset?
Some of the resistance to the new age may be well founded. There is something about its elitism and criticismlessness that viewers can, for good reason, encounter.
Other things probably have to do with habituation. Some of the traditionally Christian beliefs are hardly less startling or less in conflict with science's view of what is possible or real. However, they have been a part of our culture for so long that they rarely attract attention.
An important finding from the research is, of course, how widespread the typical New Age beliefs actually are in the population. 20-25% etc perceive reincarnation as either true or not unlikely. Telepathy, contact with deceased relatives, etc.
(Hammer, 2004) The concern some feel about New Age supporters, and criticism, may be misguided. "Concerned secular rationalists exaggerate the risks of a New Age engagement simply because they overestimate the distance between themselves and those interested in the New Age" (Hammer, 2004, p. 348).
A few words for the new age/newness defense
Out of respect for the subject and my respondents, I would like to point out that it is impossible to rule out that new age/newness does not in itself have an explanatory power, which in a way can be stronger than the usual religion and natural sciences and which actually accounts for a larger or lesser part of its attraction to the supporter. But it is, of course, outside this study to examine how things are in this matter, if it can even be done in a systematic way. This discussion section has been limited to certain psychological aspects.
A description of the new age/newness's own premises.
In the New Age, one imagines that man evolves over a long period of time to become ready to live in/return to the spiritual world. What takes such time? We are on earth to learn to think and create purposefully. The goal is to become completely loving individuals. It is only in the heavy earthly matter that such learning is possible. Here we get a response to our actions. In the spiritual world, everything "takes place on the commandments of thought" and learning and maturity are not possible. Even if guilt is "an illusion", perhaps the ability to feel guilty is included in this education? "A wounded refugee between two kingdoms." Does anyone in the material take up that idea?
That Christian ethics are so consistent with psychoanalysis
New age/ newness – a high-risk project?
Perhaps new age/newness is a high-risk project. All kinds of spirituality provide ideals to live up to and visions of the future. Normally, this is organized around, and moderated by, the individual's godly relationship. Within a spirituality that lacks a vision of God, or in which this image of God is unclear or arcane — and even more so if some of the divine attributes are placed with the individual, the individual is exposed to more than he or she can bear.
Increased regression pressure. Different individuals will be affected differently, depending on the resources at his or her disposal.
What is it like to live with full responsibility for your destiny and how to reconcile it with "god's love"? The reasoning in the data material may remind me of the reasoning: "I only get what I deserve." What to think about this? Even if you have a coherent, "logical" worldview where these contexts are explained, is it possible to keep apart, so that one does not feel abandoned or neglected?
Thoughts of karma and reincarnation are found in other religious directions. But as Hammer argues, these thoughts are still understood in a slightly different way in, for example, popular Hinduism. Fate is not something that the individual himself must bear. Relatives and survivors are involved in another way, sacrificing to the gods on behalf of the deceased, etc.
If one were to try to subdout the New Age into the usual Christian dichotomy, between man's salvation being due to God's "grace" or because it is due to his own deeds, the New Age clearly joins the latter. The New Age can be perceived here as more radical than even the most radical Reformed Christian movements, such as the Word of Life. She really gets away with it.
Granqvist and the AAI interviews.
Both sides are right. I believe that the pathology is higher than what followers of the New Age/New Age themselves think. Granqvist and others are right. And their argument is correct: those with shaky upbringing and experience will feel at home in na's 1) general tolerance for differences, 2) the propensity to misinterpret and value actual difficulties into signs of superiority, even, 3) the doctrine suits the relationship experiences one has, role reversals, etc. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that more people there actually feel worse.
But at the same time, one can imagine that too much that is judged and labeled, for its similarity to accepted patterns and symptoms, should get a "pseudo-" before it or "-like" at the end. The NA culture is not as slippery as they seem, people are not. On the one hand, some are misinterpreted, overreacting, on the basis of cultural norms (Hammer).
Although I am not a Christian myself, or have any faith in God to speak of, these stories make a distressing impression on me.
Perhaps even the atheist may have a more satisfying relationship with his non-god (Jones) than a supporter of new age/newness might have for his version. This could be investigated using psychodynamic theory.
I am inclined to believe that of the three relationships of God, the Christian, the atheistic and the God embraced by the New Age,the latter is the least successful from a health perspective.
If NA is viewed from a psychoanalytic perspective, the issue of debt comes up. The feeling of guilt, and the willingness to repair what one has broken — and ask for forgiveness, grace — is central to psychoanalysis. Even for those who look at NA from a Christian point of view, the debt issue comes up.
Within NA, the issue of debt is central, but one comes to a completely different conclusion than both the Christians and psychoanalysts. Isn't that interesting? Psychoanalysts and Christians view man from a similar point of view.
To live up to a certain standard, etc. "Many people are afraid that evil thoughts and feelings will come out when you let go of control. And of course it could be. We are not called to save ourselves. It's God's job" (Persson, 2007, how ref lecture script for the web?)
New Age and Jung.
Several of the informants mention Jung as a source of inspiration. The fact that NA fits in with and has taken strong impressions of Jungian psychology is also evident from the literature (Hammer?). Jung is sometimes pitted against Freud and psychoanalysis, and the latter often comes up short. But this is partly based on a misconception. In some issues or aspects, the two giants were far apart, but in other aspects they were strikingly similar and perhaps children of the same time. Their view of humanity was individualistic. And while the psychoanalytic movement has had to adapt to and take an impression of relational and interpersonal perspectives (Bowlby, Stern, etc., even Kohut) – and reconcile these with the legacy of Freud – it is rather the NA that can make an archaic impression, regardless of the Jungian concepts superficially appearing to be about things that are also shared with others, etc.
Is the New Age a "religion" among others?
Is the New Age common religion, or is it a particular atypical phenomenon, requiring special theories? Both, I would argue. It deals with the same questions, solves pretty much the same problems, has similarities in many ways, provides answers to similar eternal questions. In this sense, it is religion. But then there are the things that are particularly sad. That's what I wanted to show with this study, or what this study landed in. It is a spirituality with higher psychological interventions. Freud's criticism of religion is in some respects more apt for the New Age/Neohamdity than it is, and was, for religion. If Freud had not been so driven by what he was deiven, he might have wanted to make n separate between adaptive, harmless, even enriching, religiosity, and aspects of such occultism that existed even in his day.
The public who pulled the shortest straw – again?
The scientists moved on. The public pulled the shortest straw. If religion has served the prevailing order in periods, caused people to behave in a way that has been system preservation, then something similar may apply to secularization today. A basis for consumerism? Poverty, missing.
Our time, parallels to new age/newness
It is possible to understand the popularity of new age/newness in light of currents in our time. But it is also possible to understand something more general about our present and living conditions based on studies in new age/newness. The stresses to which followers are exposed, from the environment as well as from their own interior, have much in common with the challenge of living and maturing in perhaps above all the Western Cultural Sphere. NA makes certain mental processes more visible.
The denial of basic human conditions is related. It is something natural to resist, which goes incrementally through life – children, teenage years, young adult, etc . One could argue that modern man makes extra resistance to aging, weakness, fragility. That's our usual denial for the longest. The concern about new age/newness is that with this worldview the "normal" resistance (defense) becomes "reinforced" or "alloyed". So new age/newness can be an aggravating factor for ordinary life maturity. This is probably true at the group level. (Farias o Granqvist's thoughts worth taking seriously.)
Is new age/newness "bad religion"?
How's the new age? New Age provides answers. This is common to more fundamentalist religious systems. Concrete answers at the level of detail. Risk of the sensible invading areas that in adulthood would be allowed to remain a play area? (see ref Igra, at Jemstedt about "leakage" between levels that psychoanalysis aims to help with, if necessary!)
Rotstein on "gap" (Hammer, ref). Deta also connects to a variety of sayings and proverbs from folk psychology: "If something seems too good to be true, it probably is too", "The road to ragnarok is lined with good intentions", "When the best becomes the enemy of the good", etc.
At Wilfred Bion (Bion, ref?) there is the expression "negative capability", simply being able to put up with not knowing. "[P]recision' is too often a distortion of the reality, 'imprecision' too often indistinguishable from confusion" (Bion, 1977).
Kallifatides (2004) writes about the travails of translation. Painful experiences have led him to the conclusion that "a complete accuracy is the dream of the dead."