Orientalism: New Age’s Barrier to Inclusivity

The Snake Charmer
“The Snake Charmer” by Jean-Léon_Gerome, Courtesy Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

In recent months I’ve become increasingly aware of how often people within New Age feel privileged to justify racism. There is a pervasive belief in New Age that marginalized peoples want to experience marginalization, because their soul consciously embodied into that experience in this lifetime.[i]  This line of reasoning compounded with a goal to “center in one’s truth” is an open invitation for upholding white privilege. Too many times I have witnessed white folks within New Age gaslight people of color for “talking from their ego” when it comes to calling out racist behavior.  Even I have been accused of egotism when addressing it.

There’s a complete failure in New Age to recognize centuries of institutionalized racism and our collective responsibility to dismantle it. And that type of reasoning is disturbing for a movement that prides itself on “paradigm shifting” philosophies. So I’d like to take some time to explore orientalism, a type of racism that is at the bedrock of New Age. It’s easy to think that if you intend positivity then you automatically enact positivity. But prejudice and stereotypes can become embodied and passed down from generation to generation, and being a beacon of love, light, and happiness isn’t enough to break the cycles of unconscious biases. That requires continual interrogation of perceived cultural truths, active self-reflection, and a commitment to consciously choose a different thought, emotion, and action.

Continue reading “Orientalism: New Age’s Barrier to Inclusivity”

Intellectual Integrity in New Age

center of labyrinth
At the center of a labyrinth

It seems fitting that the first entry for this blog should address the reason why I have decided to start it in the first place. I am a public historian. For the past seven years I have worked in history museums, curating exhibits and developing public programs. These days I spend less time conducting research and more time teaching methodology and critical thinking. I am also a self-described gnostic who was raised in the New Age movement. More specifically, I was raised in a New Thought household and attended “church” at a Center for Spiritual Living. Over the years I have incorporated other philosophies into my own cosmology – theosophy, Gnosticism, Neopaganism, and ancestral magic. I don’t hide my occult interests, but I’m also aware of the reputation that New Age culture has of being shallow and anti-intellectual. I think to an extent that this reputation is justifiable, and yet I still actively incorporate these philosophies into my own life. And so, I began to reflect on what it is like to navigate between the world of professional research and the transcendent experiences of daily spiritual practice and ritual.

Continue reading “Intellectual Integrity in New Age”