Skip to Main Content

Religious Studies: New Age

Religion 101


“Reality is a projection of your thoughts or the things you habitually think about.” (Stephen Richards)


"First emerging in the late 1960s, the New Age movement is an eclectic mix of eastern and western spiritual traditions and practices along with positive thinking and psychological personal growth techniques. Seekers combine these in their quest to find the ‘true self’ or more authentic modes of experience. A key tenet of New Age thought is that from lots of personal changes in consciousness will come a new era of ecological renewal and social harmony."

Seel, B. (2002). New Age. In J. Barry & E. Frankland (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Environmental Politics. Routledge.

The New Age Movement "[c]an be traced to the spiritual ferment, quest for personal fulfillment, and interest in altered states of consciousness of the 1960s. The New Age movement also has roots in western esotericism, including Freemasonry, Spiritualism, and Theosophy. During the 1970s, New Age practitioners were especially drawn to Asian spiritual teachers. In the 1980s, “channeling” spiritual entities through mediums became popular. Shamanism as a means to altered states of consciousness and the appropriation of Native American religions assumed increasing importance during the 1990s." Now, popular New Age practices are closely related to neopaganism, with an additional focus on astrology, meditation, divination, and crystals.

Taylor, B. (2018). New age movement. In E. Queen, P. II, S. Stephen R., & J. Gardiner H. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of American Religious History. Facts On File.

Holism: theory that everything is interconnected

Holistic Medicine: "non-traditional" medicine that focuses on "whole-body" health. Examples include plants, essential oils, and folk medicine.

Meditation & Self-Reflection

Rejection of the Traditional

Self-Spirituality: the focus on developing a sense of spirituality divorced of traditional religious structures.

Syncretism: the combination and merging of aspects of different religious traditions into a new practice.


Terms & Concepts

"The study of the supposed influence of the movements and positions of the sun, moon and planets on human and terrestrial affairs. The word astrology comes from the Greek astron , meaning star, and logos , meaning discourse. There are a number of different systems of astrology, but they all share the common belief that there is a connection between the relative positions and alignments of celestial bodies such as the sun, moon and planets, and events on earth."

Astrology. (2007). In U. McGovern (Ed.), Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained. Chambers Harrap.

"Crystals are solid minerals which have formed in a regular geometric shape. They include precious gemstones such as diamonds, sapphires and emeralds, semiprecious stones such as amethyst, aquamarine and topaz, and other stones such as quartz, jasper, fluorite and agate. Thought to possess mystical properties and healing qualities, crystals have been used for thousands of years in medicine and as talismans and divination tools."

Crystals. (2007). In U. McGovern (Ed.), Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained. Chambers Harrap.

Manifestation in New Age practices typically refers to the belief that by honing one's thoughts, performing certain rituals, or changing physical aspects of one's life, things, events, or even people a practitioner has wished for will appear. Manifestation, in its current New Age iteration, is based heavily on Hindu and Buddhist spiritual practices.

"Divination by numbers. The basis of numerology is the belief that numbers connect the world of humans to the structure of the universe."

Numerology. (2018). In Helicon (Ed.), The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide. Helicon.

Taking many shapes depending on the practitioner, "Spirit" typically refers to a universal guiding force, potentially responsible for the creation of the universe, that humans can "tap into", or communicate with, for their spiritual and material goals.

"A set of cards, traditionally 78 in number, used mainly for divination. The traditional tarot deck is made up of 78 cards, which are divided into two main groups – 22 trump cards, known as the major arcana , which depict highly allegorical images, and 56 numbered ‘pip’ cards, known as the minor arcana, which are grouped into four suits of 14 cards – the suits of cups , pentacles , swords and wands."

Tarot. (2007). In U. McGovern (Ed.), Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained. Chambers Harrap. Retrieved December 7, 2023, from

©2022 Houston Community College Libraries