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The New Age Movement

"New Age or Armageddon?"
by Monica Sjöö
From woman of power, Issue 16

Background on the context in which this essay was written.

Date Reading Was Discussed: February 1, 1993
Present: Colleen M., Maria B., Marlene C., Bobby C., Ora M., and Cathleen M.

Women at this month's session appreciated Monica Sjöö's trenchant critique of the New Age movement. A woman who had read Sjöö's book on which this essay was based informed us that Sjöö targets among others the Findhorn community in Scotland, Leonard Orr and the Rebirthers, José Argüelles and the Harmonic Convergence, and the New Age shamanism of Sun Bear and Lynn Andrews.

In addition to pillaging indigenous cultures and women's spirituality, Sjöö asserts there is "simply no political questioning—no awareness of race, sex, class, and imperialism" in the New Age movement. Several women agreed that many New Agers are politically insular and indifferent to mass struggle for social change.

A few of us, though, were concerned that Sjöö views the New Age too monolithically as if there were a single constituency acting in unison. Most of us identified with New Age-type practices such as creative visualization, crystal healing, or Tarot. We wished Sjöö had more deeply explored nonpatriarchal or ecofeminist interpretations of the New Age—or at least explained in clearer detail how these approaches differ from the New Age ones she critiques.

We agreed with Sjöö's rebuke that New Agers dismiss Wicce and paganism and are not "grounded in a cosmology that reveres and defends the Goddess Earth." She claims that in spite of the New Age movement's supposedly alternative values, its philosophical underpinnings remain tethered to some of the most basic features of patriarchy, i.e., a hatred and fear of the Goddess, misogyny, racism, and a fixation on dominating and controlling nature.

A couple of women felt that invoking Goddess consciousness enables us to more clearly envision and work toward a post-patriarchal world in which women, nature, and oppressed people will again be actively respected. One woman, however, wondered where the male principle fits in. Another asked whether Sjöö is merely substituting the classic male role with a female one, replacing God with Goddess.

A woman responded that people (particularly Westerners) are so used to seeing reality through patriarchy's warped lens that nonpatriarchal ways of being are almost impossible to imagine or are readily discredited. Such a mindset falsely assumes that a female deity would likewise be an almighty, authoritarian godhead lording it over with the threat of fire and brimstone.

One woman challenged whether the term patriarchy is not just a political construct to give Name to the past 5,000 years. Rather, she proposed, the Goddess may be simply in her degenerative phase, as natural to the cycles of life as death is to birth, winter to spring, or a waning moon to a waxing one.

Several women rejected this take, preferring Sjöö's assertion that patriarchy is not an organic, natural process, but rather a violently created system assaulting life on all fronts. To illustrate the patriarchal mind, one woman talked about the effects clocks had when they were erected on church towers in feudal Europe. People gradually stopped paying attention to nature and their own biorhythms which had always told them when to eat, work, or sleep. She was aghast by the tremendous dislocation and regulation such a contrivance inflicted on the human psyche.

Another woman felt that when patriarchy came to fore, the intuitive, psychic development of our species was short-circuited by analytical, mechanistic methods. She believed that had technology advanced in tandem with our original earth-based sensibility, we would now be using astral projection to travel in space, not polluting rockets. Or, she suggested, we would be communicating telepathically instead of killing trees to make telephone poles and poisoning Gaia with low-level radiation emitted from millions of miles of electromagnetic wires.

Another woman expressed alarm by current experiments Russians are conducting to light up the night sky. A giant mirror anchored in space simulates daylight by reflecting the sun's rays. This perverse version of solar energy typifies patriarchy's obsession to negate and conquer the Dark.

Dreamtime, death, old age, the underworld, women's blood, primal mysteries, and sexuality, Sjöö contends, are all vital aspects of the Dark Goddess. As elaborated more fully in the incomparable The Great Cosmic Mother (co-authored by Sjöö and Barbara Mor), these Dark forces are none other than an ancient lunar consciousness that defies repression.

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