New Age Market... Mainstream Now?

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charles19

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It amazed me recently that my 87-year old mother wanted me to get her a book on the Nostradamus prophecies for her birthday. It is interesting watching the New Age literature market morph into a mainstream genre. There are, of course, still fringe parts of it, but New Age thinking seems to have indelibly imprinted itself into the psyche of Western culture. In part, this has to do with the absorption of Eastern techniques and philosophies (yoga, tai chi, fen shui), the health food and alternative medicine boom, television shows focusing on the supernatural, the decline in popularity of mainstream religions, etc. etc.

Do you have the sense that the market for New Age literature is as strong as ever? Do you see any trends in this particular genre?

Thanks,

-Charles
 

Helix

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If you're including feng shui and television shows about the paranormal, that's quite a broad definition of New Age! I'd have thought that the 1970s was the peak for a lot of New Age literature, but that's not based on anything more concrete than a vague interest in alternative ideas in my teens.
 

cornflake

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It amazed me recently that my 87-year old mother wanted me to get her a book on the Nostradamus prophecies for her birthday. It is interesting watching the New Age literature market morph into a mainstream genre. There are, of course, still fringe parts of it, but New Age thinking seems to have indelibly imprinted itself into the psyche of Western culture. In part, this has to do with the absorption of Eastern techniques and philosophies (yoga, tai chi, fen shui), the health food and alternative medicine boom, television shows focusing on the supernatural, the decline in popularity of mainstream religions, etc. etc.

Do you have the sense that the market for New Age literature is as strong as ever? Do you see any trends in this particular genre?

Thanks,

-Charles

I gotta say I'm with the duck thing -- I was confused as to how Nostradamus was New Age (or new anything, considering how long dude's been dead, heh). Same for tai chi, yoga, etc.... all of which have been mainstream for decades and aren't what I think of as New Age (or supernatural or ... health food??).

Personally, I think of stuff like crystals, astral projection, dream control, that blue spot nonsense that was big for a while, whatever it was called (it had like a book and people printed the spot in newspapers...), The Secret, that stuff, when I think New Age.

That stuff seems pretty... passe to me, though I'm sure some people are still into it. The mainstreaming of stuff like yoga, or Nostrdamus I do feel has been around for decades but maybe it's picked up the more it gets filtered into the general cultural mainstream, presented in tv and stuff as normal, not 'hippie.' I live in a more progressive area, so hard to tell sometimes.
 

charles19

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Interesting. I suppose there is a large variety of "alternative" literature out there, and New Age can range from occult to alternative health fads. But there is a link of New Age literature to established trends such as yoga, native spirituality, paganism, Kabbalah, etc. I think it has been absorbed into a kind of lifestyle. The thing is, i don't think it is "alternative" any more; it has become mainstream.
 

cornflake

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Interesting. I suppose there is a large variety of "alternative" literature out there, and New Age can range from occult to alternative health fads. But there is a link of New Age literature to established trends such as yoga, native spirituality, paganism, Kabbalah, etc. I think it has been absorbed into a kind of lifestyle. The thing is, i don't think it is "alternative" any more; it has become mainstream.

Ok, hold up -- I wouldn't call yoga a trend, unless trend has a reeeeaaalllly long shelf life.

Also neither paganism nor native spirituality are trends, and Kabbalah is an actual, serious area of Judaism. That people like Madonna and that loony rabbi of hers (and others, obvs.) decided they were going to start some kind of thing they called Kabbalah involved holding books they mainly couldn't read and tying strings around their wrists doesn't have anything to do with that.
 

Helix

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Is it not the current iteration of an ancient practice -- picking and choosing ideas from other sources and synthesising them into a 'new' one? (With its attendant problems of colonialism and bastardisation, depending on the pickers and the sources.) I grew up in a household with a Rosicrucian, so read the free magazine* as a kid. Rosicrucianism, in all its incarnations, is a combination of elements from a whole range of traditions. Fascinating in its own way.

*Along with Nursing Times, which was much more interesting.
 

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I think 'new age' is now old age as it's been around for so many decades. However, alternative medical therapies, dietary, spiritual and other non-mainstream books are certainly on the up, particularly as previously small niche markets have grown due to the internet.

Interesting if Nostradamus is making a comeback. The Erika Cheetham 1965 interpretation of his writings was all the rage right through the 1970s.
 

Albedo

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I'd consider New Age as something distinct from the general increase in Western interest in yoga, meditation, TCM, etc. I think of the New Age as being a combo of various modern (as in late 19th century onwards) Western mystical elements, with as Helix points out a lot of syncretic adoption (or appropriation) of Eastern and Indigenous beliefs. None of those appropriated elements are New Age on their own.

I think New Age has been a pretty robust genre (and industry) for a few decades. What might be changing is that now the Eastern elements tend to be appropriated on their own. A lot of people are into yoga for its own sake, and not interested in crystals.*


*I love crystals and fossils, but it's a pain how all the places that sell them are into energy healing and all that. I just want some pretty goddamn rocks.
 

Albedo

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Now those are some expensive goddamn rocks! A bit oligarch-y for my tastes, but I can see why people like them.

they had some great rock sales in Broken Hill when I was there. Giant chunks of galena make very pretty, somewhat toxic paperweights.
 

Kjbartolotta

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At the bookstore I worked at in SF we had a long discussion about what to called the New Age section and how to organize it. We could call it metaphysics, but the real metaphysics go in the philosophy section. Did the paranormal phenomenon & UFO books belong there? And what about books on Wiccan and Paganism. Religion? Mythology? And do they belong to be separated from the books on Ceremonial Magick, which overlaps but is not the same. Then yeah, Kabbalah, which as CF said is a real thing in the Jewish tradition. But there are TONS of people writing about it outside of Judaism, not necessarily credible but at least moreso than Madonna's rabbi. Do they belong in the Judaica section? Then you got your Masonic & AMORC materials, astrology, your idiosyncratic Christian spirituality (does Matthew Fox go with Thomas Merton?), EVERYTHING regarding Eastern philosophy, Robert Anton Wilson. You end up reading most of them just to know how to sort them.

The only thing I learned is that the topic is popular. People will spend hundreds of dollars, and come back every month. And if you own something rare, oh boy... We had a really good New Age bookstore in LA called Bodhi Tree, but got closed because the landlord's son wanted to open a brewery. [New Age] is always popular, look at how into Theosophy the Victorians were. But it got a built-in ceiling as well, its always going to appeal to a certain kind of person and not others, and impossible to catagorize.

*sorry for worse typos, site's being weird.
 
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charles19

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Yes, well the "New" in New Age is a bit of a misnomer, because as one poster said, it is Old Age by now. I just wanted to point out that the "Renaissance" actually was partly about re-discovering Greco-Roman art and literature. It was how these forms were synthesized to take into account the prevailing mores of society (i.e. through the lens of Christianity) that gave a new spin to old thoughts. So in a sense The Renaissance was partly a reactionary movement.

Along similar lines, New Age was partly a synthesis combining different types of mystical, spiritual and metaphysical thought. For instance, the Celestine Prophecy was almost entirely derivative. Carlos Castaneda's books were influential in the 1970's and 1980's regarding New Age thought but were drawn from native spirituality (I will not comment on their authenticity). My point is that the lines are very blurry and that old and even ancient systems of thought are constantly being re-packaged for more contemporary consumption. My feeling is also that this kind of literature will never die because not matter how materialistic society becomes there will always be a backlash for more transcendent perspectives.

-Charles
 
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Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

New Thought churches still use that designation, but they no longer consider themselves a side branch of Christianity, which they used to do when my grandmother was a founding member of The Teaching of the Inner Christ in the middle of the last century.

As mentioned upstream, New Age tends to be syncretic. Not truly Eastern, but drawing on Eastern traditions. Unless it's drawing on Native traditions. Or both.

Interest peaked in the 1990s, according to what I've read. Although those practices, such as yoga, that are backed by LONG standing traditions are still going strong.

What was called "Woo Woo" stuff (astral projection and the like) is no longer going as strong, as far as I can see. Crystals have gone mainstream, but more as decorating items. (They ARE pretty.)

So, it depends...

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

ColoradoGuy

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At the bookstore I worked at in SF we had a long discussion about what to called the New Age section and how to organize it. We could call it metaphysics, but the real metaphysics go in the philosophy section. Did the paranormal phenomenon & UFO books belong there? And what about books on Wiccan and Paganism. Religion? Mythology? And do they belong to be separated from the books on Ceremonial Magick, which overlaps but is not the same. Then yeah, Kabbalah, which as CF said is a real thing in the Jewish tradition. But there are TONS of people writing about it outside of Judaism, not necessarily credible but at least moreso than Madonna's rabbi. Do they belong in the Judaica section? Then you got your Masonic & AMORC materials, astrology, your idiosyncratic Christian spirituality (does Matthew Fox go with Thomas Merton?), EVERYTHING regarding Eastern philosophy, Robert Anton Wilson. You end up reading most of them just to know how to sort them.

The only thing I learned is that the topic is popular. People will spend hundreds of dollars, and come back every month. And if you own something rare, oh boy... We had a really good New Age bookstore in LA called Bodhi Tree, but got closed because the landlord's son wanted to open a brewery. [New Age] is always popular, look at how into Theosophy the Victorians were. But it got a built-in ceiling as well, its always going to appeal to a certain kind of person and not others, and impossible to catagorize.

*sorry for worse typos, site's being weird.

I agree. Santa Fe, where I live, has had some bookstores like that for a long time and has been New Age-y for a while. There are even some old hippy-derived groups living out in the county. Up the road from us is Taos and they've got a large community of such folks. The size seems stable to me.
 
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