It can be summarized as a consciousness-raising movement that includes a wide array of themes, beliefs and practices, ranging from spiritualism, mysticism, reincarnation, ecological activism to holistic alternative/complementary health. It is a blend of old and new, ancient and futuristic, stone-age beliefs and modern science.
I can remember the good ‘ol days when I was a student in Australia in the 70’s and being approached on the streets by white Hare Krishna devotees, singing with their guitars and flute. That was one of the icons of the flower power and peace movements of the day that has now largely disappeared from the streets, although the Hare Krishna movement itself has grown into a huge global organization. Little did I know then that I will have brotherly relationships with some of them later on in my life. Although some may consider the movement “New Age”, it is actually the interpretation and practice of an ancient religion – Hinduism. It is now a leading proponent of the convergence of science and spirituality.
My interest in the New Age movement is three-fold: science, spirituality and holistic health. New Age gurus typically talk or write about spirituality, self-improvement and self-realization, holistic health and energy healing, and now even business and corporate health!
NEW AGE SCIENCE
By New Age Science I mean the application of “old” concepts of the Dao ( Tao ) and other ancient philosophical and spiritual teachings to the understanding of science, in particular, the understanding of quantum physics. Authors like Gary Zukav ( The Dancing Wu Li Masters ) and Fritjof Kapra ( The Tao of Physics ) have brilliantly explained how the ancients scholars have understood the workings of the Universe much better than we give them credit for. In fact, our own understanding of this complex universe can be much enhanced by revisiting the old teachings. My fascination of course goes further because science, spirituality and healing all merge in one coherent formula if the workings of the Universe, and that of Life itself, are understood at its most basic level.
NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY
New Age Spirituality tends to be detached from religion, as many find organized religion too restrictive or boring, and they look for something exciting but without too many rules. In the western countries, many New Age spiritual teachers, gurus and masters have appeared. Some of the famous ones are Dr Deepak Chopra ( Quantum Healing, How to Know God, and many other books ) and Neale Donald Walsch ( Conversations with God ), both of whom have been here to give talks or conduct seminars.
New Age practitioners do accept certain concepts taught or practiced by some of the established religions and spiritual traditions. Mysticism, occultism, shamanism and neo-paganism are popular practices among the New Agers, as are the concepts of past-lives and reincarnation.
There is a tendency to combine or integrate many such beliefs, and there is no uniform set of beliefs. In other words, you create your own set of beliefs, and your own spirituality. This seems to attract the younger generation who have a more care-free attitude towards life, as it did one generation ago ( their parents’ generation, who now have to contend with their children’s choice of belief systems ).
New Age Spirituality also talks about prophecy ( most famous being Edgar Cayce, the “Sleeping Prophet” ) and identify much with the teachings of the Kabbalah, Theosophy and the Rosicrucians. The syncretism of religious, philosophical and spiritual practices is not surprising in the modern society that is looking to fill a spiritual void after many years of abandoning organized religion.
As a result, even Sufism has been corrupted by the New Agers who have adopted certain Sufi practices without becoming Muslims first. The whirling sufi dance, for example, is a popular esoteric practice among certain non-Muslim “Sufi” groups in USA. At best, these are pseudo-Sufis. From being a 1400 year-old spiritual tradition, Sufism in now “New Age”.But then in USA, anything goes!
May I remind readers about what Dato Jegathesan, adviser to the Sathya Sai Organization, once said: ” Religion without spirituality is lame. Spirituality without religion is blind”. This of course reminds us of Einstein’s famous quote : ” Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind”.
Since I truly believe in the convergence of science and spirituality, may I add: ” Spirituality without science is lame. Science without spirituality is blind”. Just to add a twist to the whole thing!
WHAT IS TRUE WISDOM?
The whole aim of spirituality is to connect and be close GOD ( for believers ) or to your inner self or Universal Power or Nature ( for spiritual practitioners who do not believe in a personal GOD ). In this modern scientific age, may I pose this question:
If GOD exists ( as half the world believe ), then can the atheist scientists and scholars ( like Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins ) really be brilliant and wise if they deny the very existence of their creator?
Conversely, if GOD does not exist ( as the other half believe ), then can the believing scientists, priests, monks, mullah, yogis, gurus, swamis and scholars really be brilliant and wise if they worship and devote themselves ( some even sacrifice everything, including their lives ) to the wishes of a non-existent GOD?
That is my spiritual exercise for you today. Those who want to read my full article on this can go to my blog ( dramirfaridisahak.blogspot.com )
NEW AGE HEALING
Like New Age Spirituality, New Age Healing is also a syncretism of the old and new. The occult, mystic and shaman practices of the past are used for spiritual as well as physical healing. Crystals, pyramids, flower essences, aromatherapy, music and massage therapy are popular New Age therapies, as are all sorts of energy-healing. In fact, this movement has given a revival to many healing arts which would otherwise be lost.
Pranic Healing, Reiki, Qigong and other energy-healing arts are becoming more popular as they are also being embraced by the New Age movement. There are also many new energy-healing methods, some of which are modifications or innovations of established ones, and they are too numerous to mention.
Although prana ( life-force ) chakras and mantras were taught by Hindu sages and yogis eons ago, these terms are now fashionable for both New Age spiritualists and healers. As in everything else, things seem to go one full circle.
THE PRINCE AND THE POET
I would like to share with you my encounter with the prince of all New Age gurus – Dr Deepak Chopra. Like many, I had paid a good sum to attend his seminar held at a resort nearby, during his first visit about 10 years ago. At that time he was finishing his work of recording Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi’s poetry, with famous artistes like Madonna reciting the poems to the accompaniment of New Age Music. So he mentioned Mawlana Rumi many times during his seminar.
Mawlana Rumi was one of the most famous Sufi saints. He was also a poet, jurist and theologian. He was Persian and lived in the 13th century. To this date he is revered as one of the greatest poets by Muslims and non-Muslims, and his works are the subject of study by scholars throughout the world. He was also the founder of the whirling dervishes ( Mawlawiyya ) Sufi chain, famous for their whirling Sufi dance.
I wrote Dr Chopra a note reminding him that he was quoting my shaykh, and that we had to talk. He agreed to give me 5 minutes after the end of the seminar. Once we started talking in private, he told me he had a throbbing toothache and asked me if I could relieve it. I answered that if GOD wills, then anything is possible. So, after a short supplication, I did qigong healing and his toothache was gone. That 5 minutes went on to 30 minutes.
At the end I received instructions from Mawlana Rumi that he had a message for Dr Chopra, but it will be given later. I told Dr Chopra that I will deliver the message before he leaves Malaysia the next day. The next morning I woke up and still had not got the message, and I panicked.
I called my Sufi shaykh and explained my problem. He laughed and said that Mawlana Rumi had given the message to him, to be passed on to me, and then to Dr Chopra. Unfortunately, I could not get hold of Dr Chopra who was already on his way to the airport by then.
In 2002, Dr Chopra again came to KL but I was not able to meet him to deliver the message. In the meantime, he had written a book entitled “How to Know God”. Now I understand why Mawlana’s message is still undelivered. Dr Chopra will also understand when he finally gets the message this September when he again comes to KL. I hope the organizers will give me a chance to deliver the message this time!