Emergence and Development: c. 1970-2000
Not everyone who came to be associated with the New Age phenomenon openly embraced the term “New Age”, although it was popularised in books like David Spangler’s 1977 work Revelation: The Birth of a New Age and Mark Satin’s 1979 book New Age Politics: Healing Self and Society. Other terms that were employed synonymously with “New Age” in this milieu included “Green”, “Holistic”, “Alternative”, and “Spiritual”.
1971 witnessed the foundation of est by Werner H. Erhard, a transformational training course which became a prominent part of the early movement. Melton suggested that the 1970s witnessed the growth of a relationship between the New Age movement and the older New Thought movement, as evidenced by the widespread use of Helen Schucman’s A Course in Miracles (1975), New Age music, and crystal healing in New Thought churches. Some figures in the New Thought movement were sceptical, challenging the compatibility of New Age and New Thought perspectives. During these decades, Findhorn had become a site of pilgrimage for many New Agers, and greatly expanded in size as people joined the community, with workshops and conferences being held there that brought together New Age thinkers from across the world.
Terminology of the “New Age”
The term “new age”, along with related terms like “new era” and “new world”, long predate the emergence of the New Age movement, and have widely been used to assert that a better way of life for humanity is dawning. It has, for instance, widely been used in political contexts; the Great Seal of the United States, designed in 1782, proclaims a “new order of ages”, while in the 1980s the Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev proclaimed that “all mankind is entering a new age”. The term has also appeared within Western esoteric schools of thought, having a scattered use from the mid-nineteenth century onward. In 1864 the American Swedenborgian Warren Felt Evans published The New Age and its Message, while in 1907 Alfred Orage and Holbrook Jackson began editing a weekly journal of Christian liberalism and socialism titled The New Age. The concept of a coming “new age” that would be inaugurated by the return to Earth of Jesus Christ was a theme in the poetry of Wellesley Tudor Pole and Johanna Brandt, and then also appeared in the work of the American Theosophist Alice Bailey, who used the term prominently in such titles as Disciplineship in the New Age (1944) and Education in the New Age (1954).
Between the 1930s and 1960s a small number of groups and individuals became preoccupied with the concept of a coming “New Age” and prominently used the term accordingly. The term had thus become a recurring motif in the esoteric spirituality milieu. Sutcliffe therefore expressed the view that while the term “New Age” had originally been an “apocalyptic emblem”, it would only be later that it became “a tag or codeword for a ‘spiritual’ idiom”.
History and Schools of Metaphysics
Scholasticism and the Middle Ages
Between about 1100 and 1500, philosophy as a discipline took place as part of the Catholic church’s teaching system, known as scholasticism. Scholastic philosophy took place within an established framework blending Christian theology with Aristotelian teachings. Although fundamental orthodoxies could not be challenged, there were nonetheless deep metaphysical disagreements, particularly over the problem of universals, which engaged Duns Scotus and Pierre Abelard. William of Ockham is remembered for his principle of ontological parsimony.
Rationalism and Continental Rationalism
In the early modern period (17th and 18th centuries), the system-building scope of philosophy is often linked to the rationalist method of philosophy, that is the technique of deducing the nature of the world by pure reason. The scholastic concepts of substance and accident were employed.
- Leibniz proposed in his Monadology a plurality of non-interacting substances.
- Descartes is famous for his Dualism of material and mental substances.
- Spinoza believed reality was a single substance of God-or-nature.
Mind and Matter
The nature of matter was a problem in its own right in early philosophy. Aristotle himself introduced the idea of matter in general to the Western world, adapting the term hyle, which originally meant “lumber.” Early debates centered on identifying a single underlying principle. Water was claimed by Thales, air by Anaximenes, Apeiron (the Boundless) by Anaximander, fire by Heraclitus. Democritus, in conjunction with his mentor, Leucippus, conceived of an atomic theory many centuries before it was accepted by modern science. It is worth noting, however, that the grounds necessary to ensure validity to the proposed theory’s veridical nature were not scientific, but just as philosophical as those traditions espoused by Thales and Anaximander.
The nature of the mind and its relation to the body has been seen as more of a problem as science has progressed in its mechanistic understanding of the brain and body. Proposed solutions often have ramifications about the nature of mind as a whole. René Descartes proposed substance dualism, a theory in which mind and body are essentially different, with the mind having some of the attributes traditionally assigned to the soul, in the seventeenth century. This creates a conceptual puzzle about how the two interact (which has received some strange answers, such as occasionalism). Evidence of a close relationship between brain and mind, such as the Phineas Gage case, have made this form of dualism increasingly unpopular.
Another proposal discussing the mind-body problem is idealism, in which the material is sweepingly eliminated in favor of the mental. Idealists, such as George Berkeley, claim that material objects do not exist unless perceived and only as perceptions. The “German idealists” such as Fichte, Hegel and Schopenhauer took Kant as their starting-point, although it is debatable how much of an idealist Kant himself was. Idealism is also a common theme in Eastern philosophy. Related ideas are panpsychism and panexperientialism, which say everything has a mind rather than everything exists in a mind. Alfred North Whitehead was a twentieth-century exponent of this approach.
Idealism is a monistic theory which holds that there is a single universal substance or principle. Neutral monism, associated in different forms with Baruch Spinoza and Bertrand Russell, seeks to be less extreme than idealism, and to avoid the problems of substance dualism. It claims that existence consists of a single substance that in itself is neither mental nor physical, but is capable of mental and physical aspects or attributes – thus it implies a dual-aspect theory.
For the last one hundred years, the dominant metaphysics has without a doubt been materialistic monism. Type identity theory, token identity theory, functionalism, reductive physicalism, nonreductive physicalism, eliminative materialism, anomalous monism, property dualism, epiphenomenalism and emergence are just some of the candidates for a scientifically informed account of the mind. (It should be noted that while many of these positions are dualisms, none of them are substance dualism.)
Prominent recent philosophers of mind include David Armstrong, Ned Block, David Chalmers, Patricia and Paul Churchland, Donald Davidson, Daniel Dennett, Fred Dretske, Douglas Hofstadter, Jerry Fodor, David Lewis, Thomas Nagel, Hilary Putnam, John Searle, John Smart, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Fred Alan Wolf.
Williams’ Argument In Detail
In addition to the preceding two arguments against the cogito, other arguments have been advanced by Bernard Williams. He claims, for example, that what we are dealing with when we talk of thought, or when we say “I am thinking,” is something conceivable from a third-person perspective; namely objective “thought-events” in the former case, and an objective thinker in the latter.
Williams provides a meticulous and exhaustive examination of this objection. He argues, first, that it is impossible to make sense of “there is thinking” without relativizing it to something. However, this something cannot be Cartesian egos, because it is impossible to differentiate objectively between things just on the basis of the pure content of consciousness.
The obvious problem is that, through introspection, or our experience of consciousness, we have no way of moving to conclude the existence of any third-personal fact, to conceive of which would require something above and beyond just the purely subjective contents of the mind.
Søren Kierkegaard’s Critique
The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard provided a critical response to the cogito. Kierkegaard argues that the cogito already presupposes the existence of “I”, and therefore concluding with existence is logically trivial. Kierkegaard’s argument can be made clearer if one extracts the premise “I think” into two further premises:
- “x” thinks
- I am that “x”
- Therefore I think
- Therefore I am
Where “x” is used as a placeholder in order to disambiguate the “I” from the thinking thing.
Here, the cogito has already assumed the “I”‘s existence as that which thinks. For Kierkegaard, Descartes is merely “developing the content of a concept”, namely that the “I”, which already exists, thinks.
Kierkegaard argues that the value of the cogito is not its logical argument, but its psychological appeal: a thought must have something that exists to think the thought. It is psychologically difficult to think “I do not exist”. But as Kierkegaard argues, the proper logical flow of argument is that existence is already assumed or presupposed in order for thinking to occur, not that existence is concluded from that thinking.
John Macmurray’s Form of the Personal
The Scottish philosopher John Macmurray rejects the cogito outright in order to place action at the center of a philosophical system he entitles the Form of the Personal. “We must reject this, both as standpoint and as method. If this be philosophy, then philosophy is a bubble floating in an atmosphere of unreality.” The reliance on thought creates an irreconcilable dualism between thought and action in which the unity of experience is lost. Thus dissolving the integrity of our selves, and destroying any connection with reality. In order to formulate a more adequate cogito, Macmurray proposes the substitution of “I do” for “I think”. Ultimately leading to a belief in God as an agent to whom all persons stand in relation.
Many philosophical skeptics and particularly radical skeptics would say that indubitable knowledge does not exist, is impossible, or has not been found yet, and would apply this criticism to the assertion that the “cogito” is beyond doubt.
Last spring, while visiting the Jamaica market, I had bought a nice terracotta figure of ‘La Virgen de Guadalupe’, Mexico’s mystical figure and patron Saint. It is an icon that is omnipresent in the society here and I was thinking of painting it whenever I had some time.
Finally between late August and early September both Normita and I decided to get back into painting, as we were looking for some creative projects that would be fun to do, and be great at relaxing us. I picked up some acrylic sealer, new brushes, and some tubes of acrylic paint at the art supply store, to complement what we had on hand and went at it with gusto.
I really enjoyed the fun of mixing bright colors to paint the ‘Virgen’, and while I was doing that Normita made a nice painting that we recently got framed and put over our bed. Here is my contribution to the decoration of the place, and I’ll take a picture of Normita’s painting and post it, it she gives me permission.
March 13, 2012
The previous post is almost a couple of years old. A lot has happened since then and this blog was completely forgotten. Last week we started to revamp the dozen or so sites we support on this host, one of many we use for our clients. This morning I remembered this blog and decided to see where it stood. What I found was not good as it looked like it was hacked a while back when our host got hacked itself. We had taken measures to prevent further occurrences on all our other sites except this one.
I have just updated the really antiquated version of WordPress this site was running on after making sure that everything was cleaned out first. I deactivated the old theme which is no longer supported and this time we will really make a new theme and start posting again. Things have been overdue for too long. I will be back with news and some new content shortly.
June 28, 2010
I have just moved this blog to a new host, from our internal server here at the office. The site is showing off a lot of wear and tear and suffering from moving from a Windows Server to a Linux on. I also noticed that it is running an antiquated version of WordPress. In the coming week I will start sprucing up the place and then start posting regularly again. In the meantime, bear with me until I find time to clean up this site as I am in the process of also moving a dozen other sites!
April 20, 2009
Back in 1989 I took a sabbatical to sort some things happening in both my personal and business lives. During that period of reassessment I also sat down and wrote a fantasy novel that was called “One way ticket to Talenthar“. Strangely it was mostly written by going to bed at night thinking of the plot of the story and my subconscious mind would fill in the plotline and character dialogs overnight and during the following day I would tediously write the story by hand as I was computerless during that period. The entire process repeated itself over a period of some months and then I borrowed my young cousin’s computer during his summer vacations while he was not using it for school, and I typed in the entire thing using my trusty old DOS WordPerfect floppies.
The original manuscript is still in storage somewhere in my uncle’s basement back in Canada and I have the original WordPerfect documents in my backups here at the office. I had some interest of publishing it at the time and I sent the story out. Through a friend some British editor showed some minor interest, but the story stood mainly untouched for all of those years as I lost interest of the endless cycle of sending proposals and waiting for refusals.
For many years I have wanted to edit the story again and flesh up the last third of it, as the plotline was rushing to its conclusion and was lacking details. I started a few times to do it, but never was in a situation where I could give it the time it needed. Most recently last summer I wrote a completely new version of the prologue based on a totally different point of view, to better give life to the world of the story. I really liked that new version, but time constraints yet again did not permit me to continue rewriting the story. The worse is that due to a combination of things totally outside my control (losing my writing computer’s hard drive and the network storage unit of the office on the same day) all of that work was lost. I found out this morning when I went looking for the new documents.
I still have an inkling of what I had written there, even if it is just a general idea, and I plan to start the rewrite yet another time. This time, to make sure I stick to my ideas I will first publish the original work followed by the rewritten one bit by bit or chapter by chapter, whatever fits my schedule best. I will start the project in the coming days and try to stick to a fairly regular schedule as best as I can humanly, or better sassquatchly!
April 18, 2009
This is the first post in many years, and hopefully it will be the start of regular posting again. A lot has happened in my life in the last few years, (including a few moves including) one following the first one by 3 weeks as we had moved into the house from hell. Our doggies celebrated their second anniversary a few weeks back and when I posted last they were just a few months old. Now they weigh more than 65Kg (~145 pounds) and they are our pride and joy.?
This blog started as a place on the Web, to post my writing and had somewhat evolved into a once in a while diary of things happening in my life. In the last few days I had started thinking about fiction writing again, and I thought about reviving this blog. The goals of the new version would be to publish some of fiction I had written ages ago, and new stories that has been circling in my mind for years. I read the ‘About The Sass’ entry here and it was almost exactly what I have in mind now, and what I had in mind when I first started. I guess that now I will have to finally deliver on it.?
In the coming weeks I plan to remove the cobwebs from the blog, a task I started today by removing all the posts that were not related to what I want this blog to be. What are left are a few very old stories and some general entries. What I plan to do is first research what happened in blog technology in the intervening years and bring the backend of the blog into the modern world, and then do a bit of sprucing up to the looks which were temporary when I did them years ago. I will then start publishing, chapter by chapter, a fantasy novel I wrote back in 1989? I hope that all the friends and family that were faithful readers in the old days will like what I will do now, and that new friends will become regular readers. Thanks for the patience??