Children of the New Age: A History of Spiritual Practices

Children of the New Age: A History of Spiritual Practices

Children of the New Age: A History of Spiritual Practices

Children of the New Age: A History of Spiritual Practices


The first true social history of the phenomenon known as New Age culture, Children of the New Age presents an overview of the diverse varieties of New Age belief and practice from the 1930s to the present day. Drawing on original ethnographic research and rarely seen archival material, it calls into question the assumption that the New Age is a discrete and unified 'movement', and reveals the unities and fractures evident in contemporary New Age practice.


Genealogy does not resemble the evolution of a species and does not map the destiny of a people. On the contrary, to follow the complex course of descent is to maintain passing events in their proper dispersion; it is to identify the accidents, the minute deviations-or conversely, the complete reversals-the errors, the false appraisals, and the faulty calculations that gave birth to those things that continue to exist and have value for us; it is to discover that truth or being do not lie at the root of what we know and what we are, but the exteriority of accidents.

(Foucault 1977:146)

This book is an historical ethnography of 'New Age' spirituality in Anglo-American culture between the 1930s and the 1990s. My first contact with this polyvalent expression 'New Age' was in the mid-1970s when I bought a second-hand copy of a book by Alice Bailey, grandly entitled A Treatise on Cosmic Fire. Iremember the sombre, plain, midnight-blue jacket-the house style of the Bailey books-and the sheer bulk of the book. Although its 1,283 pages of text defeated me, I was intrigued to find in the endpapers the following invitation:

Training for new age discipleship is provided by the Arcane School. The principles of the Ageless Wisdom are presented through esoteric meditation, study and service as a way of life. [Emphasis in original]

Then in 1982, I was hitch-hiking to Southampton one evening to visit a friend when I met an older traveller, heading north. He told me his destination was Findhorn. I was surprised, for I knew Findhorn was at the other end of the British mainland and it seemed late in the day to be starting out so far. But the hitchhiker made light of this, confessing a long-standing attraction to Findhorn. 'We're all searching for something, aren't we?', he said, as we parted.

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