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new age
by Strifu

Question by Cody: What the difference between the new age movement and new thought movement..?
They seem very similar to me or as is the new age movement is part of the new thought movement. Just wandering the difference between the two and if they relate to each other, how is that?

Best answer:

Answer by Jeff S
New Thought stems from the late 19th-early 20th century, New Age from the late 50s, but became most popular in the 70s. Both were spiritual movements and both placed a lot of emphasis on meditation. I’m not sure there’s any consensus for their origins, but here’s my take on it. (As with anything else, do your own research and draw your own conclusions!).

New Thought had its roots in the spiritual movement of the late 19th century, which was highlighted by seances (many famously debunked by the great Harry Houdini), fortunetellers, and “spiritual healing” which was popular with a lot of the Christian sects of the time, and made huge by Mary Baker Eddy, who’s Christian Science is still huge today. The early 20th century brought an interest in applying scientific methods to spirituality. There was also a strong influence of revived old-school occultism and and at the same time a breath of new energy in the form of Yoga and Indian spiritual practices. For all of that spirituality, the new though seems to have emphasized a rational approach and the importance of strengthening the will and will power.

By 1910-1920 New Thought had gone mainstream, in the way that New Age has today. There’s still a lot of New though writings out there (I’ve found Ramacharaka, aka. William Walker Atkinson’s books by Yogi Publication Society both east to read and more or less practical). Interestingly, Chicago (and New York to some degree) seems to have been the hub of New Thought publishing.

All of this mysticism lost steam after WW2 (1930s-40s).

New Age seems to have got its start with the late 50s intellectual fascination with Asian philosophy, particularly Zen, Buddhism and Taoism. In the early 60s, yoga and Indian influence gained prominence. New age seems to be more of an all-encompassing realm, including physical activity (yoga, Tai Chi and so forth), diet, mental discipline, charity and social interaction. The emphasis was less on will-power and conscious effort, than on discovery, both within one’s own mind and in the outer world, and understanding and challenging one’s limits. There was also more of an appreciation of how an individual fit into the bigger scheme of things in an immediate way, and so the awareness of the ecology and compassion for one’s fellows. By the 70s, some of it had melded into psychotherapy and pop-culture.

Hope that’s helpful to you!
–Jeff Sauber

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