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


2 thoughts on “Asian Philosophies And The “New Age”

  1. Finding this site is exactly what I needed today. I wonder what the I Ching will say, later? Probably Youthful Folly, or some other jokester prank.
    I thought your ideas about mental inertia and climate change were very insightful, then reading this article sent me on an altogether different journey. My use of the I Ching has changed my behavior, thoughts and actions, not so much as telling me what to do, but more in how to act as I do what I do.
    After years of working on a psychiatric unit and with the developmentally disabled population before that, I have me as my own client, dealing, as a listener, musician, and auditory learner, with single sided deafness with tinnitus,(sort of my own Zen Koan).
    I spent months while I was ill, reading Lao. My illness happened five years ago. These days the sound fills my neuropaths with no rhyme or reason, beyond the reach of the professionals I entrusted with my care. I read Pema Chadron in the midst of my torment and I see that I have another book waiting for me.
    I am always interested in the way this type of information comes to me. In high school, I would read science fiction, and mysteries, then I found books on Zen, Tao, and the Vedas. Decades later, I am visited by people, meaning well, that are certain that I need to know the TRUTH, and only by their way of seeing can I grow to understand by believing as they believe. I suppose that asking them to cure me will create an ethical dilemma in my head. I do believe that there is nothing better than the ethic of reciprocity, as far as relations with others. I wonder what rules apply in my own head? Anyway, thanks for writing this stuff.

  2. Excellent and serious book on the New Age: “New Age Religion and Western Culture,” by Wouter J. Hanegraaf

    Best books on Hinduism: See “The Essential Ananda K. Coomaraswamy” Edited by Rama P. Coomaraswamy, Foreword By Arvind Sharma

    Frithjof Schuon, “Language of the Self”

    Jagadguru of Kanchi, Introduction to Hindu Dharma (Edited by Michael Fitzgerald
    Introduction by Arvind Sharma)

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