Origins

The first of these channeled texts derived from the being known as Seth, transcribed by Jane Roberts from 1970 to 1984, and published as The Seth Material (1970), Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul (1972), Conversations with Seth (1980), and approximately a dozen other books. Importantly, the mainstream publishing company Prentice-Hall published all of these texts as mass-market paperbacks, enabling their distribution to a broad market of readers. The Seth content focused on development of the inner self as well as calling for transforming the world through individual enlightenment. Helen Schucman's A Course in Miracles (1975), channeled from an unnamed being whom the author implied was Christ, had an even more important effect: this single text served a common element that allowed New Age practitioners to gather and discuss, utilizing the text's format as both channeled knowledge, workbook, and student/teacher guide. Like the Seth material, A Course in Miracles called for self-development, specifically removing the blocks of inner awareness.

Thanks to national and regional periodicals and the channeled texts, by the mid-1980s the New Age existed as an informal network of spiritual seekers who shared subscriptions to similar magazines, read similar books, and shopped at the burgeoning number of New Age stores. Few outsiders paid much attention to the movement, however, until 1987, when two events brought the New Age to wider prominence. These two events, the Harmonic Convergence gatherings and actress Shirley MacLaine's "Out on a Limb" television series, galvanized a common sense of purpose among the New Age community.

The August 1987 Harmonic Convergence reveals the underlying nature of the New Age movement. Though New Age practitioners generally refer to the Convergence as a single event, in fact it represented dozens of gatherings around the world as thousands of practitioners celebrated what they believed was a cosmic marker of the inauguration of a new era-that is, a New Age-for the world and society. The same year, Shirley MacLaine's "Out on a Limb" television series, based on her book of the same name (1983), highlighted her own journey and made explicit mention of her identification with the New Age subculture, particularly her belief in reincarnation. Though most outsider observers generally scoffed at both MacLaine's claims of previous lives and the Harmonic Convergence attendees' claims that a new era had dawned, the attention that media outlets paid to both not only attracted attention to the New Age, but served as a manner for New Age practitioners to realize that they were not merely individuals in a spiritual quest, but members of a broader religious movement.



Study Questions:
     1.     What does the New Age movement comprise?
     2.     What are the four themes of New Age religion?
     3.     How has the New Age movement evolved out of the New Thought movement?
     4.     How has literacy helped the New Age spread?

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