Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Death of the New Age


Consider this an obsidian knife, one which has been patiently napped out of the black volcanic glass and now has its final eccentric shape. The handle was formed in the sixties counterculture, a psychedelic mess once all the real hopes of change had been flaked away. All the turned on led by pied pipers away from confronting the war in Vietnam, the horrors of a petrochemical age, and into righteous self-obsession. There are no Black Panthers, Weather Underground, Malcolm X, it is a resolutely Caucasian and privileged tableaux of figures on the work that stands before us.

The youth revolution was lost. A subset followed human potential movement into weekend retreats and anodyne absolution of responsibility for the world. A substitution for change was given in dietary restrictions, yoga for abs, and chanting for world peace. The result? A counter revolution of wars on drugs, on terror, on people, on the planet, proceeding unchecked and gathering fateful pace.


Solstice 2012 should be pinioned with this obsidian knife. The new age has ended, huddling under stripy blankets with a chillum at dawn on the precincts of Tikhal, the steps of Chichen Itza. The children of Cortez, the Quetzacoatl who brought death to a continent, a world, now camp out in the picturesque ruins and make their final abasement a shambling ritual event.

Welcome to the new dawn, and no it has not brought the aliens, the jesus, the evolution, the rapture to save the helpless, the credulous, the menopausal, the adrift. The garrulous adorable rap of St McKenna of Soma has reached its omega point. This date must bring death to this delusion.

As a magician, this is my stated intent.  


But even with such sharp tools to hand, this will not be an easy corpse to flay. The prophets and tour guides of this credulous consumer cult will already have their platitudes ready.  They will not abandon a pyramid scheme of book signings, exotic holiday breaks and the endless raking of money and guilt out of their victims' pockets in return for vaguely ethnic clothing and vaguer ideas for their sense of loss and longing.

To understand the need for the knife we need to employ this term: Cognitive dissonance.  The phrase itself was invented to explain what happens when prophecy fails, leaving a landing site of believers, whether Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Cargo Cult or whoever, bereft of the promised miracle. The event is quickly recast with a new date, destination, or interpretation for them to cling to. Having failed, prophecy morphs and 2012 will be re-skinned to save the New Agers from having to face up to failure. Pinchbeck in the skin of Daniken in the skin of Sitchen in the skin of the next pretender. This is why we need to hold up this still smoking mirror, show them the knife.

Our own actions, as magicians and witches, must also confront this mirror and blade. In wider culture, this is how we are often seen. We too can be found engaging in the worst kind of self-absorption, a project of self-deification that is more pop psychology and atomised consumer narcissism than fierce path. The obsession with the perfection of the self is the shiny surface of our corrupt capitalist cult. It does not challenge power. Evolution does not occur through a passive sense of entitlement, or the acquisition of trinkets, or grades. It requires more radical work. Our hands need to get dirtier.   

We too can be guilty of cultural appropriation, personality cultism, pyramid schemes and empty promises. It is idiotic and insulting to make claims of special knowledge over other peoples' traditions.

In celebrating, no,  insisting on the death of the New Age on this pivotal date we can take stock rather than being part of another bahktun of empty platitudes and future promises. Let us understand that the New Age is spiritual froth, the scum on the surface of a toxic industrial culture. It is a warning sign, not a new life-form. Yes, there are well meaning people involved. Yes,  it is easy to parody the New Agers, but at the very least they know that something is very badly wrong. So too does our culture, shifting uneasily as the storm fronts smash into the coasts, the rivers burst, the crops fail. People will ask magicians to explain what is wrong, and our answers better make more sense than cheap talk about ‘an awakening,’ or suggestions to cultivate our own sense of power in the grip of growing powerlessness.  

So are we any different?

Where we differ from the New Age is that magic and witchcraft must be grounded in our relationship with the land, with community, with nature. Stating this has been ‘unfashionable’ for those who wish to exist in a bubble where the spirits that they talk with are not embedded in the physical world but are fragments of their psyches. This is not a position that our ancestors would recognise, we are part of a continuum, a continuum which is being raped and destroyed. This must be our focus.

The idea that personal work has no wider context or connection is a vain, alienated and ineffective way to approach magic and witchcraft. We have responsibilities, and it is time that we grew into them. Any other approach is as deluded as any crystal healing dolphinology, it just chooses a darker wardrobe and accessory set.   

To do this we are engaged in a grand project, namely the re-connection with the Western Tradition.  Not the theft of culture, the magpie imaginings, the post-modern anything goes. We have serious work to do, and that goes beyond the studying of our navel chakras. We need to understand ancestry, land, spirit as a living system which must be defended with tooth and claw. This vital sense of animism is what must animate us. Our proof must be our work, not our unfulfilled dreams, but in living mythically, in embodied action.


And as for the children of the Maize, there is this hope. Standing  in the same dawn as the New Agers. Throughout Chiapas the Zapatistas mark the date, anonymous, masked and brave. This is witchcraft, the example which we too must follow. If this is the New Age, then it will be one of turmoil, of blood, of revolutionary change. We must not make the same mistake again.

Happy New Year.

34 comments:

Hannah Warwick-Mahoney said...
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Hannah Warwick-Mahoney said...
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River's Edge said...

This is a fierce and beautiful piece, thank you for writing it.

mist said...
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Soror Basilisk said...

Another fine piece. Thank you. Words to feed a hungry mind and embittered soul.

All the best to you in 2013.

Fox said...

Brilliant piece Peter, one of the best. Regards.

Fox said...
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Jason Drew said...

Three quotes from text:

It is idiotic and insulting to make claims of special knowledge over other peoples' traditions.

It requires more radical work. Our hands need to get dirtier.

Our proof must be our work…

Accidental geographer. said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

Terrence said...

Great article. One of my favorite quotes about the New Age movement is Michael Tsarion:

"So going to the center is not oneness, this is nonsense. This is a papier-mâché, hideous creature, of a bunch of broken shards coming together to go "yeah man we're one". We are one nothing. A bunch of broken lost souls...calling out cause you glued yourselves together, you're something?"

Josephus said...

Interesting post. I do, however, like Capitalism. It allows the free exchange of ideas and money, and the buying and selling of books that the majority consider disagreeable or unacceptable.

Sara Amis said...

These are some of the issues which informed the sundering of my witchcraft tradition. Some of us wanted to turn it into a professionalized New Agey self-development vehicle, and some of us...didn't.

wonderfeel said...

Yes there is a self-adsorbed haziness common in the New Age, a tentative gravitation toward... but generally also a reticence to BE in the crisp heart of self-acceptance.

"relationship with the land, with community, with nature" and with Self!

To belittle self-connection as vanity is to dodge a (the?) core task,
Kind acceptance of our vulnerability is the pure parallel to oneness within nature, community, all.

Judging self/other is the paradigm of separation/aversion, the paradigm that begins with head rejecting heart, then extends into neglecting the vulnerability of nature, of financial poverty, of animal suffering, bodilly health, etc, etc

Each must start in self-love.

Wandering Pagan said...

Thank you for writing this - I hope it is widely read.

Sanspareille said...

Excellent piece. Kept thinking of all those semiprecious stones stripmined in Asia by the ton and shaped into baubles, bangles and 'good luck charms' by the slave labour of political prisoners and children... As Hannah says, now is not the time for self-indulgence...

Sanspareille said...

Excellent piece. Kept thinking of all those semiprecious stones stripmined in Asia by the ton and shaped into baubles, bangles and 'good luck charms' by the slave labour of political prisoners and children... As Hannah says, now is not the time for self-indulgence...

melusinari said...

This is an excellent critique of the dangers of "New Age" extremism, examining the roots of this cultural category, and how losing oneself in the "non-physical reality" can provide privileged folks with a convenient escape from dealing with the world... when we desperately need to be engaged, in the real-here-now situation on the ground for our common survival.

masterzachariah said...

One of the largest problems I find with magicians who take it upon themselves to change the world is their focus on the destructive element of change.

You can just as easily promote the change you would rather have than follow some formula based on the idea you need to destroy in order to re-create.

If you simply destroy, you leave the creation to the Gods, and obviously they are struggling.
So the act of re-creation is left in Chaos and Disorder. It is exactly because the world is in chaos and disorder that you feel the need to destroy and transform, but destruction always seems to find its way. The forces you might tap into are not those which need encouraging.

If you simply create, do you not then leave the destruction to the Gods and therefore create a slower and more harmonious effect? The pace at which this type of work takes effect is what the ego argues with. The ego always wants results NOW. Yet what is wrong with projecting ideals that are truly ideal? Little. The ego merely fears failure. But in the absence of precise truth, this is surely the superior path - the way of Yin, to quote the Taoists.

If you are truly as wise as you pretend to be, you would have a full plan - creation, destruction, and acts of adjuration and preservation - thus mirroring GOD - Generator, Operator, Destroyer. And you would be fit to work your will knowing that you are a partner with the Divine.

Forcing the New Age to die is just taking candy from a baby, even though the infants in this story are more or less adult - you should focus your aggression on a worthy target, like greed or evil of a larger scope, and be scholarly enough about the human psyche and metaphysics to posit an adequate replacement.

If you can't do this, you're a mere black magician and should abstain from the action, in case it works to the detriment of the world and your own soul. Or choose a more peaceful way to vent your aggression. The serpent always threatens to consume the dove - and, I fear, has tricked you into helping it.

Bryan Burnoski said...

The article is well thought out, and important. Thank you for writing it. Provocative. I feel and see the same need for work, action, movement, AND at the same time we need balance with the self healing and care because people are a wreck out there. To throw out self love seems to missing something. They go together. When you are in the airplane and the oxygen masks come down, save others by saving yourself first - is one way to say it. Yes, indulgence in self health, yoga, meditation and the rest is not helpful. Get the oxygen and help others, but don't keep sucking on the oxygen because it makes you feel good. I really haven't been in touch so much with the new age people, but I wonder if their houses and food are open to me. If so...I can do my work...keep the crystals I say...what do I care. If not, then forget it. Great article!

Aleq Grai said...

Our collective revulsion of the mendicant breed is bitter bitter bitter in the mouths of those who profess such learning such passion for our honourable and so community minded path.
Hah!
They hold their smile – holding back their fear borne bile – terrified they will be exposed as the very thieves and parasites they would have us think they oppose and their manta: pleasedontkillmepleasedontkillmepleasedontkillme….
The truth: We are terrorists among the New Age. We bring Iron and Flame. We bring the words: The roof is on fire – the roof is on fire . . . . .

Steve Ash said...

Yes, but the New Age was never truly individualistic, it was a collectivism based on a shared illusion of individuality, a dream among the sheep. The true individualism of the occultist is the path of the warrior who aggressively asserts their self will in the defense of all other self wills who are doing the same, both against the herd and against the predators. There can be no relation without separation :)

Steve Ash said...
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Tom Bombadil said...

For a very long time, I have had a keen interest in the thoughts of Joseph Campbell on mythology, the lack of it and necessity for it in our society. as an observer of trends, I believe that mythic times are upon us, a great turbulence, and that those among us who identify ourselves as wizards and magi will be called upon...to step forth...to enchant and influence the current of events unfolding. An uneasiness that I apprehend is that as I look to the left and the right at my brothers and sisters, and yeh, within myself, I see a great deal of fluff, insubstantial, ephemeral new age mumbo-jumbo. I know that any time that I've seen true magick, great energy has been expended, a certain kind of focused ferocity....not the kind gleaned from contemplating one's navel. This article crystallizes what I've been thinking and fearing for some time. Are my brothers and sisters up for the challenge of what is to come....am I?

harpsingerbobbiejo said...

I have to agree with Masterzachariah...it is true we have so much work to do...walk the talk--but I don't think wielding swords will be the answer--metaphorically speaking, YES--but as he said, focusing on the greater evils; greedy and power hungry institutions or governments. Unfortunately we have repeated ourselves throughout history by warring over whose god is better or whose 'things' are better and we really haven't learned a whole lot. People need to see two documentaries: Ethos and Surviving Progress (our 'failed experiment')

However, a very interesting and thought provoking article none the less and thank you for waking some of us up to our work.

Joseph Moran. said...

I agree with the general thrust of this article, ignoring the silly soft-Marxist spiel about Capitalism, we have, as collective, allowed the New Age movement too greater monopoly on the occult stage, not that, in my own option, there should be a "stage" at all. Magicians and Witches are not vanguards of society or meant to set some sort of example to Western culture, the nature of occultic work is that it, by necessity, operates and exists in the shadows that lie underneath wider society. We are not spokesmen or role models for a specific set of morals or ethics, not should we attempt to be. Personally I have no time for the so-called "youth revolution" or any other sort of revolution, as an occultist I consider myself politically conservative in fact, but that has nothing to do with my work as an esotericism. The blending of occultism and politics is a mistake best left to the New Age hippies and militant feminist wiccans, I have no time for it. That said, I agree that we need to provide more meaningful answers to people's immediate needs and our connection with the land as the traditions associated with that are key to revitalising a wider culture that is so utterly vacuous and materialistic it's no wonder people's spiritual nourishment is so shockingly poor.

Fox said...

Further to a couple of comments, i have to ask why should politics "be left to new agers et al" and why is the blending of occultism and politics a mistake? We are surely at a point where no one can operate or live in a vacuum anymore (an hermetically sealed library?). Witchcraft especially has always been political; anything that stands against (either wittingly or unwittingly) the prevailing culture/paradigm is automatically political/adversary. We wont be able to leave politics to new agers or hippies when the new inquisition gets bored with the current "devils". History has a habit of repeating itself unfortunately. Personally, i welcome any assault that can be launched against the present dying system (of which the new age industry is a part of) under the guise of witchcraft and/or occultism.

saturndarkhope said...

I and others I know have also felt this call to Change. The desperate cries from the Terra Mater and our Ancestors to do something, that this road we are on must end or else we will.

We are doing what we can and have put a potential course and call of action to anyone in the magical community who is interested, to join us in a Great Work to do what we can to change this.

I'm posting this here because a) I cannot find an email address for you easily and b) you may find it of interest, at least to know you are not working alone.

Our working is at http://darkstarworking.wordpress.com/

Saturn

GreenFlame said...

I call BS.

I have to take a different stance on this based on age, study, and experience. While of course I agree with the idea of being rooted in the Land and the Ancestors, and I do note that much of the New Age tends to lack this - but not all -- much of this article is simply wrong.

First, it is wrong in that it equates "The New Age" with the worst excesses of apocalyptic thinking. That is utterly false. The New Age is its own stream of tradition and thinking that is rooted in the Theosophical Society and that comprises the Seven Rays, sacred Ancestors such as St. Germain, Maitreya and other figures, and a body of meditative practices such as the Merkaba meditation. Their traditions of Ascension, while in many ways flawed by concentrating too much on the Upper, are still workable and are no *less* flawed than the Golden Dawn and other ceremonial orders.

Hanging onto the New Age is herbalism, yoga, breathwork, Reiki, meditation, aromatherapy, crystal work, massage, natural birthing, natural parenting, and the basic idea that we are more than meat machines. These ideas were pioneered by those Hippies that the author sourly and erroneously dimisses as failures. I would like to know how old this author is.

I am 51 years old and I can tell you that the fact that I have a massage practice, am able to go into any grocery store and buy herb tea, can assist a friend with a natural home birth, can improve my health with yoga classes, can treat my cold with aromatherapy and Reiki; that I have been able to do energy work on clients and meaningfully improve these clients with chakra work -- these, and a hundred other examples, are EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM VICTORIES of the Hippie movement and the New Age movement that followed. I remember well a time when NONE OF THESE THINGS were even on the radar of people's consciousness.

People born in the very late 1970s and onwards simply don't remember a time when these things *weren't* available. They lack perspective and -- WORSE -- they lack GRATITUDE for the courage and convictions of the Hippies and the New Age pioneers who brought all these good things into relatively mainstream consciousness.

And let me tell you all another thing. I know New Age practitioners whose skills and abilities are as good as or better than 95% of the yahoos walking around with their noses in the air, calling themselves Witches and Sorcerers and Maguses and Pellars and whatever the latest fashionable term is.

And another thing: I know of many people whose lives have been measurable and concretely iimproved by New Age practices. What the hell good has Sabbatic Witchcraft done? Ceremonial magick? On a personal level it may have brought satisfaction and perhaps even enlightenment (to a few; the jury is still out of that, and self-delusion is rampant amongst most magicians), but it does not have the body of societal or even individual improvement to show that the Hippie-to-New Age movement has.

There are valid criticism of the Hippie movement, and there lots of excesses, ungroundedness and hypocrisy in the New Age movement; the observations about the mining and marketing of crystals is one of them. I have seen many of these addressed by New Age practitioners. Sadly, the same sort of critical eye seems never to be turned inward, and the practitioners of the magickal traditions seem content to masturbate themselves spiritually, sail aimlessly around the seas of Annwyn, and criticize others with flowery words of self-important twaddle.

St. Germain, help us all.

87429e24-720a-11e1-bdc5-000f20980440 said...

Sorry but this call to change is the same call to change the world gets every week. "Notice corruption and malice, and change it the only way humanity can change on a major scale and that's with a boatload of blood." The only change I'd like to see is for humanity to see itself for what it really is. Human. No more or less. Greedy blood thirsty, beautiful and ingenious, lazy callous, superheroic heartfelt monsters. Don't pretend we have ever been anything else. When have we ever been anything but exactly what we are? Don't try to spread out your responsibilty to everone else because you feel a certain way about the world. You wanna change something then change it yourself. Don't rope the rest of us into something you're too scared or weak to do yourself. You want/need help? then ask politely.
This new age, will be the same as the last age, and the one before it, is just like the one after this one. It's a cycle, it's eternal and it's how humanity keeps it's head above water. But the best thing is you don't even have to like it, you can even try to change it, but that change will be the same as every change that came before and after. While soul searching and conversing with ancients and the beyond, have you not realized this yet?

Wizzy Gynoid said...

I seriously feel that my DNA was activated on the Solstice. It feels different. really.
@greenflame right on man.

Erika said...

It is refreshing to see this perspective. I couldn't agree more and have written similar pieces. Thanks for posting!

Dragonfly said...

Well, this was a breath taking article. While I do agree with some of the points Green Flame has made. I am also sickened by the way many have made the fast buck off of the Esoteric Studies whatever path it might be.
Things need to revert back to the basics of the Land and our Ancestors, Herbalism. While Capitalism has it's place and the world could not function without it and free trade. We need to look back with Reverence, Respect and Understanding.

justine geneva said...

We liked this essay very much, and the failure/subugation of the Psychedelic 60s movement was spot on, as children growing up in the sixties, we watched as the original flowering of that change was assimilated into mainstream culture, and sold back to youth as a commodity of the same old capitalism, the same with our generations burst of Punk anger, and then Rave. Brilliant essay.

Ossian MacUrcrin said...

Well everybody else has pretty much articulated my thoughts on this to one degree or another and It's very encouraging to see that we are all of one accord as far as establishing/re-establishing real relationships with our respective lands goes.
Thank you for not only an inspired, raw and encouraging article, but for cleaning away the fluffy pink, stifling candy floss of the New age.
Glad to have found your blog. :)