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A new spirit has begun to appear in the world, and if you look you can see it breaking out everywhere.
You can see it in the warm welcome many Europeans have given to the refugees from Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan.
You can see it in the new focus on why black lives matter.
You can see it in the increasing rejection of the old modes of partisan politics.
You can see it in the growing reluctance of most governments to go to war.
You can see it in the expanding corporate social responsibility ethic.
You can see it in metaphysical traditions, the self-help movement and new age spirituality.
You can see it in the world’s increasing emphasis on the rights of all human beings.
You can see it in pluralism and multiculturalism and the burgeoning diversity movement.
You can see it wherever women have taken leadership positions.
You can see it in literature and film and drama and the arts, with their growing international focus.
You can see it when you travel across an ever-shrinking, more neighborly planet.
You can see it in the wide acceptance of the environmental movement everywhere.
You can see it when you eat your food, knowing where and how it’s grown.
You can see it in education, with its emphasis on acquiring real knowledge about other cultures.
You can see it in our children and their concerns for a peaceful, united and sustainable world.
This new spirit of the age seems to have three main overall thrusts:
- World-mindedness, as it increasingly sweeps away national, religious, gender and racial barriers
- Justice and equity, especially for the oppressed, poor and downtrodden peoples of the world
- And a greater, more spiritual sense of our responsibility to be stewards of the planet’s future
Some see this rapid change across the planet as a “new age” phenomenon; but others see it as simply the result of evolutionary advances in technology, human consciousness, education and a shrinking world. Many, many philosophers, writers, journalists, activists, observers, pundits and scientists have opined extensively on these significant changes in human consciousness during the past century; and most would agree that a profound intellectual and spiritual shift is now occurring in the world.
These significant changes often get lumped together in what some call the “new age” movement, loosely defined as an inclusive, non-dogmatic way to recognize and promote the mystical transformation of both individuals and society—a “spirituality without borders.” Many SBNR’s—people who self-identify as “spiritual but not religious”—think of themselves as having at least some new age beliefs. Summarizing those beliefs and ideas isn’t easy, but here are a few attempts:
The New Age is essentially about the search for spiritual and philosophical perspectives that will help transform humanity and the world. New Agers are willing to absorb wisdom teachings wherever they can find them, whether from an Indian guru, a renegade Christian priest, an itinerant Buddhist monk, an experiential psychotherapist or a Native American shaman. They are eager to explore their own inner potential with a view to becoming part of a broader process of social transformation. Their journey is towards totality of being. – Nevill Drury
New Age values are conscious evolution, a non-sectarian society, a non-military culture, global sharing, healing the environment, sustainable economies, self-determination, social justice, economic empowerment of the poor, love, compassion in action, going beyond religious fundamentalism, going beyond nationalism… – Deepak Chopra
Our civilization is now in the transition stage between the age of warring empires and a new age of world unity and peace. – John Boyd Orr
So do you think of yourself as new-age? Even though people may embrace many of the beliefs cited above, most don’t call themselves “new age,” probably because the term itself has become a bit negative and even pejorative lately. At its most extreme, a new age philosophy can sometimes indicate a kind of “woo-woo” quality; a naïve, shallow and not very intellectually rigorous spiritual outlook, replete with all manner of extraterrestrial encounters and pre-rational magical thinking.
However, that clichéd characterization misses the primary point of the new age movement, which posits a pluralistic vision of deep spiritual transformation and transcendence at both the personal and societal levels; a transformation that aims to lead the world into a new age of peace, oneness and human development. So no matter what you call it now—integral, transformational, or evolutionary—new age thought has captured the imaginations and inner beliefs of millions upon millions of people
In this series of essays, let’s examine that line of thinking, and see how it compares to, and has been influenced by, the Baha’i teachings:
Now the new age is here and creation is reborn. Humanity hath taken on new life. The autumn hath gone by, and the reviving spring is here. All things are now made new. Arts and industries have been reborn, there are new discoveries in science, and there are new inventions; even the details of human affairs, such as dress and personal effects — even weapons — all these have likewise been renewed. The laws and procedures of every government have been revised. Renewal is the order of the day.
And all this newness hath its source in the fresh outpourings of wondrous grace and favour from the Lord of the Kingdom, which have renewed the world. The people, therefore, must be set completely free from their old patterns of thought, that all their attention may be focused upon these new principles, for these are the light of this time and the very spirit of this age. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 252-253.