Asian Philosophies And The “New Age”

Out of the consciousness on politics and societal reality, which was expanded by the press of tumultuous events as well as the normal maturation into adults of the Baby Boom children of the late 1950s and early 1960s, there emerged an expanding consciousness about existential and metaphysical ideas about the self, in the 1970s. This quasi-spiritual self-focus was often synonymous with self-indulgence facilitated by affluence. The public identity of this amorphous mood elevation movement (or fad), and the many marketing efforts seeking to exploit it commercially, is the “New Age.”

The Internet journal Swans Commentary has just published a special edition on the New Age, and a number of authors examine various features of this social phenomenon. Much of the New Age was widely popular insubstantial fluff of no interest to me, though such cultural fluff does offer many possibilities for the construction of social comedies. My interest is in the serious and ancient philosophical thought whose gradual popularization in Western culture during the 20th century introduced an extensive and exotic vocabulary into modern lingo, which has been much exploited by the New Age.

My article is about some of the deep and wonderful philosophical ideas that emerged in antiquity in Asia, so far as I have been able to understand them. What is ancient about the philosophies I discuss is both the language and the imagery they are presented with. However, underneath the antique encrustations one can find fundamental and thus eternally relevant insights about the human condition. When people become aware of these insights in such a way that they experience a more fulfilling way to conceptualize and act out their lives, they are said to have become enlightened. My article is about a few of the lines of thought that meander in that direction.

Asian Philosophies And The “New Age”
5 November 2012