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Religion Library: New Age

Sacred Texts

Written by: Benjamin E. Zeller

Occult speculation occupies another major cluster in the New Age textual canon. The New Age movement is not the same as the occult, though both evidence certain similarities. The occult concerns itself with uncovered secret knowledge, and to the extent that such knowledge leads to self-development and a higher truth, New Agers share a common interest with students of the occult. New Age texts often focus on specific occult topics such as the lost continents of Atlantis and Lemuria, psychic powers, mystical functions of crystals, and hidden knowledge of secret societies such as the Rosicrucian Order, the Knights Templar, or Freemasonry. In each of these cases, New Age practitioners utilize occult speculation in order to gain greater access to what they consider transcendental truths.

Finally, the New Age canon includes materials drawn from the world's religions. Often such texts focus on mysticism, such as the mystical systems developed by the Christian contemplative Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), the Sufi poet Rumi (1207-1273), or Jewish Kabbalist Isaac Luria (1534-1572). Other texts include sacred scriptures, often excerpted from east Asian traditions such as Taoism, Tibetan Buddhism, or Zen. In the cases of the Jewish and Christian traditions, such attention often focuses on noncanonical or deuterocanonical material, namely that drawn from the Dead Sea Scrolls or the gnostic texts of the Nag Hammadi library. During the 1990s New Age practitioners began to show a heightened interest in Native American and other shamanistic traditions.

Study Questions:
     1.    How is the category of text as scripture viewed from within the New Age movement?
     2.    What text comes the closest to being the New Age movement’s scripture? Why?
     3.    How is New Age writing similar to the occult?
     4.    What texts from other religions are utilized within the New Age movement?