In a message dated 97-09-05 08:44:06 EDT, Gentle writes:
Ooooh..just outta curiosity (and the overwhelming desire to start a heated debate on my favorite list), what is the difference between NewAgers and normal freaks like us?! I mean, where is the line that turns someone from a pagan (or whatever title) to a NewAger?
Oh, i've played the "lurking newbie" long enough. This is one i feel compelled to comment on.
I'm loath to try to offer any absolute definitions (no offense, but these arguments on "denotative issues" don't really thrill me), but i would like to offer a few distinctions i've discovered between New Age-ism (NA) and Chaos Magick (CM).
For one, most NAers subscribe to an "absolute" theory of meta-reality, particularly in regards to reincarnation and past-lives. They tend to see this system of repeating lives as premiere, the centerpiece of all their other beliefs. Indeed, i once had a NAer tell me, after i indulged his wishes to do a numerology chart on me, that ALL numerology and astrology was founded on reincarnation... that without a foundation of the 'absoluteness' of reincarnation, numerology and astrology "made no sense at all." As i'm still sceptical on the notion of reincarnation, i've foreverafter had a bad taste in my mouth about these two sister-systems (just as well, considering how they tend to degenerate into fatalism and determinism).
NAers tend to see their particular system as universal: "Everybody has seven chakras, whether they know it or not." "Everyone is reincarnated, whether they know it or not." "Everyone is subject to karma, whether they know it or not." They've even tried to assimilate all the other "big name" prophets of all the major religions. "Oh, Jesus was a mystic proponent of reincarnation... Really! But it all got editted out of the Gospels by various unenlightened sods, after the fact." This has actually been a strong selling point to NA dogma, that it can absorb other doctrines, keep what they can use, and dismiss what doesn't fit as a 'pollution' to the original espoused belief, regardless of whether they have any historical evidence to back it up. But this also fosters a blithe arragance towards "traditionalists," who just aren't 'cool' enough to 'see the whole picture.' To paraphrase Yabro's "Messages From Micheal," "A plant needn't understand photosynthesis to turn green in the spring." That pretty much sums up the NA attitude, in a nutshell. Which, if i'm not mistaken, elevates it to the level of "religion."
CM, of course, doesn't promote any kind of absolute theory of the afterlife, or any 'cosmic' code-of-conduct (karmic or otherwise). This alone draws a wide distinction between it and NA.
Secondly, most of the popular mockery that the NAers have been subject to is the caricature that they're basically "pollyannish," that they have a skewed, unrealistic perception of the gritty "real world." But i find this image fairly accurate. They don't really want to acknowledge the ugliness and brutality of the world they find themselves in. And their strategies, their pastel-gilded "everything is love" attitude towards every scenario, every situation, seems naive at best. In a world where rightist death squads kill school teachers in the middle of the night, where transnational corporations irradiate our water table for the sake of fiscal expediency, where one out of every five children are officially malnourished and one out of every three women have been raped at least once before their 18th birthday, the general attitude and strategies of the NA community seem woefully ineffectual and outright ludicrous. In fact, it doesn't even LOOK like a strategy for change... its looks more like a complex system of denial.
This may be why so many NAers lapse into a state of paralysis and impotence, having to rely on their divinatory tools, their rune stones or their tarot cards, to make the simplest life decisions. Or perhaps they'll wind up meditating for 5 or 6 hours a day, every day... searching for some revelation, some conceptual 'grail,' that will give their lives some purpose, to fill some vacuum that they can't otherwise fill. (This doesn't look like 'results magick' to me.) Rather than offering them useful techniques to "take charge" of their own lives, it often winds up offering them intoxicating avenues to help FLEE personal responsibility, to avoid having to make the tough decisions that everyday life demands. These are the fruits of the New Age, as i've seen them.
Murray Bookchin, an eco-anarchist out of Vermont, once wrote of the NAers, calling them 'lotus eaters,' comparing them to those characters that Odysseus bumped into in Homer's "Odyssey;" an island of stagnant, apathetic addicts, chewing on flowers all day, largely unaware of their 'outside' world. Not an altogether inappropriate description.
The CMs are (or seem to be) far more open to the full range of human experience, good and bad. They can see the world both for what it IS, and what it COULD BE. They don't rely on celestial determinism, and they don't pretend things are prettier then they are. In this regard, i'd say that CM has a far more practical relationship to this "default reality" then NA, and many other paradigms. It offers a wider range of pragmatic options for dealing with the genuine problems of our world. It says, up front, that an individual has to have the strength of will, the resolve, to take command of their own lives, to steer the course of their own personal evolution, regardless of how acary that might seem. As opposed to the NAers, the Chaotes don't shirk from the responsibility of commanding their own destinies. They welcome it, because they have the vision to recognize this dizzying spectrum of options. CM doesn't make a very good 'escapist' paradigm... but NA seems pretty well suited to escapism.
The efficacy of NA as a magickal belief system is as potentially viable as any other belief system, i suppose. Why wouldn't it be? And they use several techniques that many chaotes have found value in. (I, for one, can still carry on a conversation with a 'lotus-eater,' and walk away with some valuable insights.) But frankly, the 'religious baggage' that tends to come with a full-blown acceptence of the NA ideology seems no more liberating (to me) than a full-blown acceptence of orthodox christianity.
Or so i've seen. Just an opinion.
Amor Vincit Omnia