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Spirituality – Wikipedia

For the belief in being able to contact the dead, see Spiritualism.

The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various connotations can be found alongside each other.[note 1]

Traditionally, spirituality referred to a religious process of re-formation which “aims to recover the original shape of man”,[note 2] oriented at “the image of God” as exemplified by the founders and sacred texts of the religions of the world. The term was used within early Christianity to refer to a life oriented toward the Holy Spirit. and broadened during late medieval times to include mental aspects of life.

In modern times the term both spread to other religious traditions and broadened to refer to a wider range of experience, including a range of esoteric traditions and religious traditions. Modern usages tend to refer to a subjective experience of a sacred dimension and the “deepest values and meanings by which people live”, often in a context separate from organized religious institutions, such as a belief in a supernatural (beyond the known and observable) realm, personal growth, a quest for an ultimate or sacred meaning, religious experience, or an encounter with one’s own “inner dimension”.

The term spirit means “animating or vital principle in man and animals”.[web 1] It is derived from the Old French espirit, which comes from the Latin word spiritus (soul, courage, vigor, breath) and is related to spirare (to breathe). In the Vulgate the Latin word spiritus is used to translate the Greek pneuma and Hebrew ruah.[web 1]

The term “spiritual”, matters “concerning the spirit”, is derived from Old French spirituel (12c.), which is derived from Latin spiritualis, which comes from spiritus or “spirit”.[web 2]

The term “spirituality” is derived from Middle French spiritualit, from Late Latin “spiritualitatem” (nominative spiritualitas), which is also derived from Latin spiritualis.[web 3]

There is no single, widely agreed upon definition of spirituality.[note 1] Surveys of the definition of the term, as used in scholarly research, show a broad range of definitions with limited overlap. A survey of reviews by McCarroll each dealing with the topic of spirituality gave twenty-seven explicit definitions, among which “there was little agreement.” This impedes the systematic study of spirituality and the capacity to communicate findings meaningfully. Furthermore, many of spirituality’s core features are not unique to spirituality; for example self-transcendence, asceticism and the recognition of one’s connection to all were regarded by the atheist Arthur Schopenhauer as key to ethical life.[17][bettersourceneeded]

According to Kees Waaijman, the traditional meaning of spirituality is a process of re-formation which “aims to recover the original shape of man, the image of God. To accomplish this, the re-formation is oriented at a mold, which represents the original shape: in Judaism the Torah, in Christianity there is Christ, for Buddhism, Buddha, and in Islam, Muhammad.”[note 2] Houtman and Aupers suggest that modern spirituality is a blend of humanistic psychology, mystical and esoteric traditions and Eastern religions.

In modern times the emphasis is on subjective experience and the “deepest values and meanings by which people live,” incorporating personal growth or transformation, usually in a context separate from organized religious institutions.

Words translatable as ‘spirituality’ first began to arise in the 5th century and only entered common use toward the end of the Middle Ages.[19] In a Biblical context the term means being animated by God, to be driven by the Holy Spirit, as opposed to a life which rejects this influence.

In the 11th century this meaning changed. Spirituality began to denote the mental aspect of life, as opposed to the material and sensual aspects of life, “the ecclesiastical sphere of light against the dark world of matter”.[note 3] In the 13th century “spirituality” acquired a social and psychological meaning. Socially it denoted the territory of the clergy: “The ecclesiastical against the temporary possessions, the ecclesiastical against the secular authority, the clerical class against the secular class”[note 4] Psychologically, it denoted the realm of the inner life: “The purity of motives, affections, intentions, inner dispositions, the psychology of the spiritual life, the analysis of the feelings”.[note 5]

In the 17th and 18th century a distinction was made between higher and lower forms of spirituality: “A spiritual man is one who is Christian ‘more abundantly and deeper than others’.”[note 6] The word was also associated with mysticism and quietism, and acquired a negative meaning.[citation needed]

Modern notions of spirituality developed throughout the 19th and 20th century, mixing Christian ideas with Western esoteric traditions and elements of Asian, especially Indian, religions. Spirituality became increasingly disconnected from traditional religious organisations and institutions. It is sometimes associated today with philosophical, social, or political movements such as liberalism, feminist theology, and green politics.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882) was a pioneer of the idea of spirituality as a distinct field.[25] He was one of the major figures in Transcendentalism, an early 19th-century liberal Protestant movement, which was rooted in English and German Romanticism, the Biblical criticism of Johann Gottfried Herder and Friedrich Schleiermacher, the skepticism of Hume,[web 4] and Neo-Platonism.The Transcendentalists emphasised an intuitive, experiential approach of religion.[web 5] Following Schleiermacher, an individual’s intuition of truth was taken as the criterion for truth.[web 5] In the late 18th and early 19th century, the first translations of Hindu texts appeared, which were also read by the Transcendentalists, and influenced their thinking.[web 5] They also endorsed universalist and Unitarianist ideas, leading to Unitarian Universalism, the idea that there must be truth in other religions as well, since a loving God would redeem all living beings, not just Christians.[web 5][web 6]

A major influence on modern spirituality was the Theosophical Society, which searched for ‘secret teachings’ in Asian religions. It has been influential on modernist streams in several Asian religions, notably Neo-Vedanta, the revival of Theravada Buddhism, and Buddhist modernism, which have taken over modern western notions of personal experience and universalism and integrated them in their religious concepts. A second, related influence was Anthroposophy, whose founder, Rudolf Steiner, was particularly interested in developing a genuine Western spirituality, and in the ways that such a spirituality could transform practical institutions such as education, agriculture, and medicine.[30][31]

The influence of Asian traditions on western modern spirituality was also furthered by the Perennial Philosophy, whose main proponent Aldous Huxley was deeply influenced by Swami Vivekananda’s Neo-Vedanta and Universalism, and the spread of social welfare, education and mass travel after World War Two.

An important influence on western spirituality was Neo-Vedanta, also called neo-Hinduism and Hindu Universalism,[web 7] a modern interpretation of Hinduism which developed in response to western colonialism and orientalism. It aims to present Hinduism as a “homogenized ideal of Hinduism” with Advaita Vedanta as its central doctrine. Due to the colonisation of Asia by the western world, since the 19th century an exchange of ideas has been taking place between the western world and Asia, which also influenced western religiosity. Unitarianism, and the idea of Universalism, was brought to India by missionaries, and had a major influence on neo-Hinduism via Ram Mohan Roy’s Brahmo Samaj and Brahmoism. Roy attempted to modernise and reform Hinduism, from the idea of Universalism. This universalism was further popularised, and brought back to the west as neo-Vedanta, by Swami Vivekananda.

After the Second World War, spirituality and theistic religion became increasingly disconnected, and spirituality became more oriented on subjective experience, instead of “attempts to place the self within a broader ontological context.” A new discourse developed, in which (humanistic) psychology, mystical and esoteric traditions and eastern religions are being blended, to reach the true self by self-disclosure, free expression and meditation.

The distinction between the spiritual and the religious became more common in the popular mind during the late 20th century with the rise of secularism and the advent of the New Age movement. Authors such as Chris Griscom and Shirley MacLaine explored it in numerous ways in their books. Paul Heelas noted the development within New Age circles of what he called “seminar spirituality”:[38] structured offerings complementing consumer choice with spiritual options.

Among other factors, declining membership of organized religions and the growth of secularism in the western world have given rise to this broader view of spirituality.[39] Even the secular are finding use for spiritual beliefs.[40] In his books, Michael Mamas makes the case for integrating Eastern spiritual knowledge with Western rational thought.[41][42]

The term “spiritual” is now frequently used in contexts in which the term “religious” was formerly employed. Both theists and atheists have criticized this development.[43][44]

Rabbinic Judaism (or in some Christian traditions, Rabbinism) (Hebrew: “Yahadut Rabanit” – ) has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century CE, after the codification of the Talmud. It is characterised by the belief that the Written Torah (“Law” or “Instruction”) cannot be correctly interpreted without reference to the Oral Torah and by the voluminous literature specifying what behavior is sanctioned by the law (called halakha, “the way”).

Judaism knows a variety of religious observances: ethical rules, prayers, religious clothing, holidays, shabbat, pilgrimages, Torah reading, dietary laws, etc.

Kabbalah (literally “receiving”), is an esoteric method, discipline and school of thought of Judaism. Its definition varies according to the tradition and aims of those following it,[45] from its religious origin as an integral part of Judaism, to its later Christian, New Age, or Occultist syncretic adaptations. Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an unchanging, eternal and mysterious Ein Sof (no end) and the mortal and finite universe (his creation). While it is heavily used by some denominations, it is not a religious denomination in itself. Inside Judaism, it forms the foundations of mystical religious interpretation. Outside Judaism, its scriptures are read outside the traditional canons of organised religion. Kabbalah seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence, and various other ontological questions. It also presents methods to aid understanding of these concepts and to thereby attain spiritual realisation.

Hasidic Judaism, meaning “piety” (or “loving kindness”), is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspect of the faith. It was founded in 18th-century Eastern Europe by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov as a reaction against overly legalistic Judaism. His example began the characteristic veneration of leadership in Hasidism as embodiments and intercessors of Divinity for the followers.[citation needed] Opposite to this, Hasidic teachings cherished the sincerity and concealed holiness of the unlettered common folk, and their equality with the scholarly elite. The emphasis on the Immanent Divine presence in everything gave new value to prayer and deeds of kindness, alongside Rabbinic supremacy of study, and replaced historical mystical (kabbalistic) and ethical (musar) asceticism and admonishment with optimism,[citation needed] encouragement, and daily fervour. This populist emotional revival accompanied the elite ideal of nullification to paradoxical Divine Panentheism, through intellectual articulation of inner dimensions of mystical thought.

Catholic spirituality is the spiritual practice of living out a personal act of faith (fides qua creditur) following the acceptance of faith (fides quae creditur). Although all Catholics are expected to pray together at Mass, there are many different forms of spirituality and private prayer which have developed over the centuries. Each of the major religious orders of the Catholic Church and other lay groupings have their own unique spirituality – its own way of approaching God in prayer and in living out the Gospel.

Christian mysticism refers to the development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. The attributes and means by which Christian mysticism is studied and practiced are varied and range from ecstatic visions of the soul’s mystical union with God to simple prayerful contemplation of Holy Scripture (i.e., Lectio Divina).

Progressive Christianity is a contemporary movement which seeks to remove the supernatural claims of the faith and replace them with a post-critical understanding of biblical spirituality based on historical and scientific research. It focuses on the lived experience of spirituality over historical dogmatic claims, and accepts that the faith is both true and a human construction, and that spiritual experiences are psychologically and neurally real and useful.

The Pillars of Islam (arkan al-Islam; also arkan ad-din, “pillars of religion”) are five basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory for all believers. The Quran presents them as a framework for worship and a sign of commitment to the faith. They are (1) the creed (shahadah), (2) daily prayers (salat), (3) almsgiving (zakah), (4) fasting during Ramadan and (5) the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime. The Shia and Sunni sects both agree on the essential details for the performance of these acts.[46]

The best known form of Islamic mystic spirituality is the Sufi tradition (famous through Rumi and Hafiz) in which a spiritual master or pir transmits spiritual discipline to students.[47]

Sufism or taawwuf (Arabic: ) is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam.[48][49][50] A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a f (). Sufis believe they are practicing ihsan (perfection of worship) as revealed by Gabriel to Muhammad,

Worship and serve Allah as you are seeing Him and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you.

Sufis consider themselves as the original true proponents of this pure original form of Islam. They are strong adherents to the principal of tolerance, peace and against any form of violence. The Sufi have suffered severe persecution by more rigid and fundamentalist groups such as the Wahhabi and Salafi movement. In 1843 the Senussi Sufi were forced to flee Mecca and Medina and head to Sudan and Libya.[51]

Classical Sufi scholars have defined Sufism as “a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God”.[52] Alternatively, in the words of the Darqawi Sufi teacher Ahmad ibn Ajiba, “a science through which one can know how to travel into the presence of the Divine, purify one’s inner self from filth, and beautify it with a variety of praiseworthy traits”.[53]

Jihad is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihd translates as a noun meaning “struggle”. There are two commonly accepted meanings of jihad: an inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle. The “greater jihad” is the inner struggle by a believer to fulfill his religious duties.[55] This non-violent meaning is stressed by both Muslim[56] and non-Muslim[57] authors.

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, an 11th-century Islamic scholar, referenced a statement by the companion of Muhammad, Jabir ibn Abd-Allah:

The Prophet … returned from one of his battles, and thereupon told us, ‘You have arrived with an excellent arrival, you have come from the Lesser Jihad to the Greater Jihadthe striving of a servant (of Allah) against his desires (holy war).”[unreliable source?][58][59][note 7]

Buddhist practices are known as Bhavana, which literally means “development” or “cultivating”[60] or “producing”[61][62] in the sense of “calling into existence.”[63] It is an important concept in Buddhist praxis (Patipatti). The word bhavana normally appears in conjunction with another word forming a compound phrase such as citta-bhavana (the development or cultivation of the heart/mind) or metta-bhavana (the development/cultivation of loving kindness). When used on its own bhavana signifies ‘spiritual cultivation’ generally.

Various Buddhist Paths to liberation developed throughout the ages. Best-known is the Noble Eightfold Path, but others include the Bodhisattva Path and Lamrim.

Three of four paths of spirituality in Hinduism

Hinduism has no traditional ecclesiastical order, no centralized religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet(s) nor any binding holy book; Hindus can choose to be polytheistic, pantheistic, monistic, or atheistic.[64] Within this diffuse and open structure, spirituality in Hindu philosophy is an individual experience, and referred to as ksaitraja (Sanskrit: [65]). It defines spiritual practice as one’s journey towards moksha, awareness of self, the discovery of higher truths, true nature of reality, and a consciousness that is liberated and content.[66][67]

Traditionally, Hinduism identifies three mrga (ways)[68][note 8] of spiritual practice,[69] namely Jna, the way of knowledge; Bhakti, the way of devotion; and Karma yoga, the way of selfless action. In the 19th century Vivekananda, in his neo-Vedanta synthesis of Hinduism, added Rja yoga, the way of contemplation and meditation, as a fourth way, calling all of them “yoga.”[note 9]

Jna marga is a path often assisted by a guru (teacher) in one’s spiritual practice.[72] Bhakti marga is a path of faith and devotion to deity or deities; the spiritual practice often includes chanting, singing and music – such as in kirtans – in front of idols, or images of one or more deity, or a devotional symbol of the holy.[73] Karma marga is the path of one’s work, where diligent practical work or vartta (Sanskrit: , profession) becomes in itself a spiritual practice, and work in daily life is perfected as a form of spiritual liberation and not for its material rewards.[74][75] Rja marga is the path of cultivating necessary virtues, self-discipline, tapas (meditation), contemplation and self-reflection sometimes with isolation and renunciation of the world, to a pinnacle state called samdhi.[76][77] This state of samdhi has been compared to peak experience.[78]

There is a rigorous debate in Indian literature on relative merits of these theoretical spiritual practices. For example, Chandogyopanishad suggests that those who engage in ritualistic offerings to gods and priests will fail in their spiritual practice, while those who engage in tapas will succeed; Svetasvataropanishad suggests that a successful spiritual practice requires a longing for truth, but warns of becoming ‘false ascetic’ who go through the mechanics of spiritual practice without meditating on the nature of Self and universal Truths.[79] In the practice of Hinduism, suggest modern era scholars such as Vivekananda, the choice between the paths is up to the individual and a person’s proclivities.[67][80] Other scholars[81] suggest that these Hindu spiritual practices are not mutually exclusive, but overlapping. These four paths of spirituality are also known in Hinduism outside India, such as in Balinese Hinduism, where it is called Catur Marga (literally: four paths).[82]

Different schools of Hinduism encourage different spiritual practices. In Tantric school for example, the spiritual practice has been referred to as sdhan. It involves initiation into the school, undergoing rituals, and achieving moksha liberation by experiencing union of cosmic polarities.[83] The Hare Krishna school emphasizes bhakti yoga as spiritual practice.[84] In Advaita Vedanta school, the spiritual practice emphasizes jna yoga in stages: samnyasa (cultivate virtues), sravana (hear, study), manana (reflect) and dhyana (nididhyasana, contemplate).[85]

Sikhism considers spiritual life and secular life to be intertwined:[86] “In the Sikh Weltanschauung…the temporal world is part of the Infinite Reality and partakes of its characteristics.”[87] Guru Nanak described living an “active, creative, and practical life” of “truthfulness, fidelity, self-control and purity” as being higher than a purely contemplative life.[88]

The 6th Sikh Guru Guru Hargobind re-affirmed that the political/temporal (Miri) and spiritual (Piri) realms are mutually coexistent.[89] According to the 9th Sikh Guru, Tegh Bahadhur, the ideal Sikh should have both Shakti (power that resides in the temporal), and Bhakti (spiritual meditative qualities). This was developed into the concept of the Saint Soldier by the 10th Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh.[90]

According to Guru Nanak, the goal is to attain the “attendant balance of separation-fusion, self-other, action-inaction, attachment-detachment, in the course of daily life”,[91] the polar opposite to a self-centered existence.[91] Nanak talks further about the one God or Akal (timelessness) that permeates all life[92]).[93][94][95] and which must be seen with ‘the inward eye’, or the ‘heart’, of a human being.[96]

In Sikhism there is no dogma,[97] priests, monastics or yogis.

In some African contexts, spirituality is considered a belief system that guides the welfare of society and the people therein, and eradicates sources of unhappiness occasioned by evil.

The term “spiritual” is now frequently used in contexts in which the term “religious” was formerly employed. Contemporary spirituality is also called “post-traditional spirituality” and “New Age spirituality”. Hanegraaf makes a distinction between two “New Age” movements: New Age in a restricted sense, which originated primarily in mid-twentieth century England and had its roots in Theosophy and Anthroposophy, and “New Age” in a general sense, which emerged in the later 1970s

when increasing numbers of people … began to perceive a broad similarity between a wide variety of “alternative ideas” and pursuits, and started to think of them as part of one “movement””.

Those who speak of spirituality outside of religion often define themselves as spiritual but not religious and generally believe in the existence of different “spiritual paths,” emphasizing the importance of finding one’s own individual path to spirituality. According to one 2005 poll, about 24% of the United States population identifies itself as spiritual but not religious.[web 8]

Modern spirituality is centered on the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.”[100] It embraces the idea of an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality.[101] It envisions an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being.

Not all modern notions of spirituality embrace transcendental ideas. Secular spirituality emphasizes humanistic ideas on moral character (qualities such as love, compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, responsibility, harmony, and a concern for others).[102]:22 These are aspects of life and human experience which go beyond a purely materialist view of the world without necessarily accepting belief in a supernatural reality or divine being. Nevertheless, many humanists (e.g. Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre) who clearly value the non-material, communal and virtuous aspects of life reject this usage of the term spirituality as being overly-broad (i.e. it effectively amounts to saying “everything and anything that is good and virtuous is necessarily spiritual”).[103] In 1930 Russell, a renowned atheist, wrote “… one’s ego is no very large part of the world. The man [sic.] who can center his thoughts and hopes upon something transcending self can find a certain peace in the ordinary troubles of life which is impossible to the pure egoist.” [104] Similarly, Aristotleone of the first known Western thinkers to demonstrate that morality, virtue and goodness can be derived without appealing to supernatural forceseven argued that “men create Gods in their own image” (not the other way around). Moreover, theistic and atheistic critics alike dismiss the need for the “secular spirituality” label on the basis that appears to be nothing more than obscurantism in that i) the term “spirit” is commonly taken as denoting the existence of unseen / otherworldly / life-giving forces and ii) words such as morality, philanthropy and humanism already efficiently and succinctly describe the prosocial-orientation and civility that the phrase secular spirituality is meant to convey but without risk of potential confusion that one is referring to something supernatural.

Although personal well-being, both physical and psychological, is said to be an important aspect of modern spirituality, this does not imply spirituality is essential to achieving happiness (e.g. see). Free-thinkers who reject notions that the numinous/non-material is important to living well can be just as happy as more spiritually-oriented individuals (see)[105]

Contemporary spirituality theorists assert that spirituality develops inner peace and forms a foundation for happiness. For example, meditation and similar practices are suggested to help the practitioner cultivate her/his inner life and character.[106][unreliable source?] [107] Ellison and Fan (2008) assert that spirituality causes a wide array of positive health outcomes, including “morale, happiness, and life satisfaction.”.[108] However, Schuurmans-Stekhoven (2013) actively attempted to replicate this research and found more “mixed” results.[109] Nevertheless, spirituality has played a central role in some self-help movements such as Alcoholics Anonymous:

if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead[110]

Yet such spiritually-informed treatment approaches have been challenged as pseudoscience, are far from uniformly curative and may for non-believers cause harm (see iatrogenesis).

“Spiritual experience” plays a central role in modern spirituality. This notion has been popularised by both western and Asian authors. Important early 20th century western writers who studied the phenomenon of spirituality, and their works, include William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), and Rudolph Otto, especially The Idea of the Holy (1917). James’ notions of “spiritual experience” had a further influence on the modernist streams in Asian traditions, making them even further recognisable for a western audience.

William James popularized the use of the term “religious experience” in his The Varieties of Religious Experience. It has also influenced the understanding of mysticism as a distinctive experience which supplies knowledge.[web 9]

Wayne Proudfoot traces the roots of the notion of “religious experience” further back to the German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (17681834), who argued that religion is based on a feeling of the infinite. The notion of “religious experience” was used by Schleiermacher to defend religion against the growing scientific and secular critique. It was adopted by many scholars of religion, of which William James was the most influential.

Major Asian influences were Vivekananda and D.T. Suzuki. Swami Vivekananda popularised a modern syncretitistic Hinduism, in which the authority of the scriptures was replaced by an emphasis on personal experience. D.T. Suzuki had a major influence on the popularisation of Zen in the west and popularized the idea of enlightenment as insight into a timeless, transcendent reality.[web 10][web 11] Another example can be seen in Paul Brunton’s A Search in Secret India, which introduced Ramana Maharshi and Meher Baba to a western audience.

Spiritual experiences can include being connected to a larger reality, yielding a more comprehensive self; joining with other individuals or the human community; with nature or the cosmos; or with the divine realm.[118]

Waaijman discerns four forms of spiritual practices:

Spiritual practices may include meditation, mindfulness, prayer, the contemplation of sacred texts, ethical development,[102] and spiritual retreats in a convent. Love and/or compassion are often[quantify] described as the mainstay of spiritual development.[102]

Within spirituality is also found “a common emphasis on the value of thoughtfulness, tolerance for breadth and practices and beliefs, and appreciation for the insights of other religious communities, as well as other sources of authority within the social sciences.”[121]

Since the scientific revolution of the 18th-century Enlightenment, the relationship of science to religion[122][123][pageneeded] and to spirituality[citation needed] has developed in complex ways. Historian John Hedley Brooke describes wide variations:

The natural sciences have been invested with religious meaning, with antireligious implications and, in many contexts, with no religious significance at all.”[124]

Brooke has proposed that the currently held popular notion of antagonisms between science and religion[125][126] has historically originated with “thinkers with a social or political axe to grind” rather than with the natural philosophers themselves.[127] Though physical and biological scientists today see no need for supernatural explanations to describe reality[128][129][pageneeded][130][note 10], some[quantify] scientists continue to regard science and spirituality as complementary, not contradictory,[131][132] and are willing to debate,[133]rather than simply classifying spirituality and science as non-overlapping magisteria.

A few[quantify] religious leaders have shown openness to modern science and its methods. The 14th Dalai Lama, for example, has proposed that if a scientific analysis conclusively showed certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then the claims must be abandoned and the findings of science accepted.[134]

During the twentieth century the relationship between science and spirituality has been influenced both by Freudian psychology, which has accentuated the boundaries between the two areas by accentuating individualism and secularism, and by developments in particle physics, which reopened the debate about complementarity between scientific and religious discourse and rekindled for many an interest in holistic conceptions of reality.[123]:322 These holistic conceptions were championed by New Age spiritualists in a type of quantum mysticism that they claim justifies their spiritual beliefs,[135][136] though quantum physicists themselves on the whole reject such attempts as being pseudoscientific.[137][138]

Various studies (most originating from North America) have reported a positive correlation between spirituality and mental well-being in both healthy people and those encountering a range of physical illnesses or psychological disorders.[139][140][141][142] Although spiritual individuals tend to be optimistic, report greater social support,[143] and experience higher intrinsic meaning in life,[144] strength, and inner peace,[145] whether the correlation represents a causal link remains contentious. Both supporters and opponents of this claim agree that past statistical findings are difficult to interpret, in large part because of the ongoing disagreement over how spirituality should be defined and measured.[146] There is also evidence that an agreeable / positive temperament and/or a tendency toward sociability (which all correlate with spirituality) might actually be the key psychological features that predispose people to subsequently adopt a spiritual orientation and that these characteristics, not spiritually per se, add to well-being. There is also some suggestion that the benefits associated with spirituality and religiosity might arise from being a member of a close-knit community. Social bonds available via secular sources (i.e., not unique to spirituality or faith-based groups) might just as effectively raise well-being. In sum, spirituality may not be the “active ingredient” (i.e. past association with psychological well-being measures might reflect a reverse causation or effects from other variables that correlate with spirituality),[103][147][148][149][150][151][152] and that the effects of agreeableness, conscientiousness, or virtuepersonality traits common in many non-spiritual people yet known to be slightly more common among the spiritualmay better account for spirituality’s apparent correlation with mental health and social support.[153][154][155][156][157]

Masters and Spielmans[158] conducted a meta-analysis of all the available and reputable research examining the effects of distant intercessory prayer. They found no discernible health effects from being prayed for by others. In fact, one large and scientifically rigorous study by Herbert Benson and colleagues[159] revealed that intercessory prayer had no effect on recovery from cardiac arrest, but patients told people were praying for them actually had an increased risk of medical complications. Knowing others are praying for you could actually be medically detrimental.

In the health-care professions there is growing[quantify] interest in “spiritual care”, to complement the medical-technical approaches and to improve the outcomes of medical treatments.[need quotation to verify][pageneeded] Puchalski et al. argue for “compassionate systems of care” in a spiritual context.

Neuroscientists have examined brain functioning during reported spiritual experiences[162][163] finding that certain neurotransmitters and specific areas of the brain are involved.[164][165][166][167] Moreover, experimenters have also successfully induced spiritual experiences in individuals by administering psychoactive agents known to elicit euphoria and perceptual distortions.[168][169] Conversely, religiosity and spirituality can also be dampened by electromagnetic stimulation of the brain.[170] These results have motivated some leading theorists to speculate that spirituality may be a benign subtype of psychosis (see).[148][171][172][173][174] Benign in the sense that the same aberrant sensory perceptions that those suffering clinical psychoses evaluate as distressingly in-congruent and inexplicable are instead interpreted by spiritual individuals as positiveas personal and meaningful transcendent experiences.[172][173]

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Spirituality – Wikipedia

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SRCM – Shri Ram Chandra Mission | Raja Yoga Meditation

Shri Ram Chandra Mission was initially established in Shahjahanpur, in North India in 1945. It offers a simple and unique Heartfulness Meditation with roots in Sahaj Marg, catering to seekers of spirituality in over 100 countries, covering all continents.

These World Wide centers offer a place to gather to celebrate the birth anniversaries of the gurus, to host seminars, provides spiritual education, research and training for inner growth.

Among the din and hustle of the outside world, people are feeling this deep inner call of the heart to retreat to solace, and our ashrams world wide give this opportunity by providing an environment of purity and serenity to the seeker.

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SRCM – Shri Ram Chandra Mission | Raja Yoga Meditation

New Age – Wikipedia

New Age is a term applied to a range of spiritual or religious beliefs and practices that developed in Western nations during the 1970s. Precise scholarly definitions of the New Age differ in their emphasis, largely as a result of its highly eclectic structure. Although analytically often considered to be religious, those involved in it typically prefer the designation of spiritual or Mind, Body, Spirit and rarely use the term “New Age” themselves. Many scholars of the subject refer to it as the New Age movement, although others contest this term and suggest that it is better seen as a milieu or zeitgeist.

As a form of Western esotericism, the New Age drew heavily upon a number of older esoteric traditions, in particular those that emerged from the occultist current that developed in the eighteenth century. Such prominent occult influences include the work of Emanuel Swedenborg and Franz Mesmer, as well as the ideas of Spiritualism, New Thought, and Theosophy. A number of mid-twentieth century influences, such as the UFO religions of the 1950s, the Counterculture of the 1960s, and the Human Potential Movement, also exerted a strong influence on the early development of the New Age. The exact origins of the phenomenon remain contested, but there is general agreement that it developed in the 1970s, at which time it was centred largely in the United Kingdom. It expanded and grew largely in the 1980s and 1990s, in particular within the United States. By the start of the 21st century, the term “New Age” was increasingly rejected within this milieu, with some scholars arguing that the New Age phenomenon had ended.

Despite its highly eclectic nature, a number of beliefs commonly found within the New Age have been identified. Theologically, the New Age typically adopts a belief in a holistic form of divinity that imbues all of the universe, including human beings themselves. There is thus a strong emphasis on the spiritual authority of the self. This is accompanied by a common belief in a wide variety of semi-divine non-human entities, such as angels and masters, with whom humans can communicate, particularly through the form of channeling. Typically viewing human history as being divided into a series of distinct ages, a common New Age belief is that whereas once humanity lived in an age of great technological advancement and spiritual wisdom, it has entered a period of spiritual degeneracy, which will be remedied through the establishment of a coming Age of Aquarius, from which the milieu gets its name. There is also a strong focus on healing, particularly using forms of alternative medicine, and an emphasis on a New Age “science” that seeks to unite science and spirituality.

Centred primarily in Western countries, those involved in the New Age have been primarily from middle and upper-middle-class backgrounds. The degree to which New Agers are involved in the milieu varied considerably, from those who adopted a number of New Age ideas and practices to those who fully embraced and dedicated their lives to it. The New Age has generated criticism from established Christian organisations as well as modern Pagan and indigenous communities. From the 1990s onward, the New Age became the subject of research by academic scholars of religious studies.

“One of the few things on which all scholars agree concerning New Age is that it is difficult to define. Often, the definition given actually reflects the background of the scholar giving the definition. Thus, the New Ager views New Age as a revolutionary period of history dictated by the stars; the Christian apologist has often defined new age as a cult; the historian of ideas understands it as a manifestation of the perennial tradition; the philosopher sees New Age as a monistic or holistic worldview; the sociologist describes New Age as a new religious movement (NRM); while the psychologist describes it as a form of narcissism.”

Scholar of religion Daren Kemp, 2004.

The New Age phenomenon has proved difficult to define, with much scholarly disagreement as to its scope. The scholars Steven J. Sutcliffe and Ingvild Slid Gilhus have even suggested that it remains “among the most disputed of categories in the study of religion”.

The scholar of religion Paul Heelas characterised the New Age as “…an eclectic hotch-potch of beliefs, practices, and ways of life” that can be identified as a singular phenomenon through their use of “…the same (or very similar) lingua franca to do with the human (and planetary) condition and how it can be transformed.” Similarly, the historian of religion Olav Hammer termed it “a common denominator for a variety of quite divergent contemporary popular practices and beliefs” that have emerged since the late 1970s and are “largely united by historical links, a shared discourse and an air de famille”. According to Hammer, this New Age was a “fluid and fuzzy cultic milieu”. The sociologist of religion Michael York described the New Age as “…an umbrella term that includes a great variety of groups and identities” that are united by their “…expectation of a major and universal change being primarily founded on the individual and collective development of human potential.”

The scholar of religion Wouter Hanegraaff adopted a different approach by asserting that “New Age” was “a label attached indiscriminately to whatever seems to fit it” and that as a result it “means very different things to different people”. He thus argued against the idea that the New Age could be considered “a unified ideology or Weltanschauung”, although he believed that it could be considered a “more or less unified ‘movement’.” Conversely, various other scholars have suggested that the New Age is insufficiently homogenous to be regarded as a singular movement. As a replacement term, the sociologist of religion Steven Bruce suggested that New Age was better seen as a milieu, while scholar of religion George D. Chryssides suggested that it could be understood as “a counter-cultural Zeitgeist”.

There is no central authority within the New Age phenomenon that can determine what counts as New Age and what does not.Many of those groups and individuals who could analytically be categorised as part of the New Age reject the term “New Age” in reference to themselves. Some even express active hostility to the term. Rather than terming themselves “New Agers”, those involved in this milieu commonly describe themselves as spiritual “seekers”, and some self-identify as a member of a different religious group, such as Christianity, Judaism, or Buddhism. In 2003 Sutcliffe observed that the use of the term “New Age” was “optional, episodic and declining overall”, adding that among the very few individuals who did use it, they usually did so with qualification, for instance by placing it in quotation marks. Other academics, such as Sara MacKian, have argued that the sheer diversity of the New Age renders the term too problematic for scholars to use. MacKian proposed “everyday spirituality” as an alternate term.

While acknowledging that “New Age” was a problematic term, the scholar of religion James R. Lewis stated that it remained a useful etic category for scholars to use because, “There exists no comparable term which covers all aspects of the movement.” Similarly, Chryssides argued that the fact that “New Age” is a “theoretical concept” does not “undermine its usefulness or employability”; he drew comparisons with “Hinduism”, a similar “western etic piece of vocabulary” that scholars of religion used despite its problems.

In discussing the New Age, academics have varyingly referred to “New Age spirituality” and “New Age religion”. Those involved in the New Age rarely consider it to be “religion”negatively associating that term solely with organized religionand instead describe their practices as “spirituality”. Religious studies scholars, however, have repeatedly referred to the New Age milieu as a “religion”. York described the New Age as a new religious movement (NRM). Conversely, both Heelas and Sutcliffe rejected this categorisation; Heelas believed that while elements of the New Age represented NRMs, this did not apply to every New Age group. Similarly, Chryssides stated that the New Age could not be seen as “a religion” in itself.

“The New Age movement is the cultic milieu having become conscious of itself, in the later 1970s, as constituting a more or less unified “movement”. All manifestations of this movement are characterized by a popular western culture criticism expressed in terms of a secularized esotericism.”

Scholar of esotericism Wouter Hanegraaff, 1996.

The New Age is also a form of Western esotericism. Hanegraaff regarded the New Age as a form of “popular culture criticism”, in that it represented a reaction against the dominant Western values of Judeo-Christian religion and rationalism, adding that “New Age religion formulates such criticism not at random, but falls back on” the ideas of earlier Western esoteric groups.

The New Age has also been identified by various scholars of religion as part of the cultic milieu. This concept, developed by the sociologist Colin Campbell, refers to a social network of marginalised ideas. Through their shared marginalisation within a given society, these disparate ideas interact and create new syntheses.

Hammer identified much of the New Age as corresponding to the concept of “folk religions” in that it seeks to deal with existential questions regarding subjects like death and disease in “an unsystematic fashion, often through a process of bricolage from already available narratives and rituals”. York also heuristically divides the New Age into three broad trends. The first, the social camp, represents groups that primarily seek to bring about social change, while the second, the occult camp, instead focus on contact with spirit entities and channeling. York’s third group, the spiritual camp, represents a middle ground between these two camps that focuses largely on individual development.

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 occurs commonly, for instance, 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”.

According to scholar Nevill Drury, the New Age has a “tangible history”, although Hanegraaff expressed the view that most New Agers were “surprisingly ignorant about the actual historical roots of their beliefs”. Similarly, Hammer thought that “source amnesia” was a “building block of a New Age worldview”, with New Agers typically adopting ideas with no awareness of where those ideas originated.

As a form of Western esotericism, the New Age has antecedents that stretch back to southern Europe in Late Antiquity. Following the Age of Enlightenment in 18th century Europe, new esoteric ideas developed in response to the development of scientific rationality. Scholars call this new esoteric trend occultism, and this occultism was a key factor in the development of the worldview from which the New Age emerged.

One of the earliest influences on the New Age was the Swedish 18th century Christian mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, who professed the ability to communicate with angels, demons, and spirits. Swedenborg’s attempt to unite science and religion and his prediction of a coming era in particular have been cited as ways that he prefigured the New Age.[49] Another early influence was the late 18th and early 19th century German physician and hypnotist Franz Mesmer, who claimed the existence of a force known as “animal magnetism” running through the human body.[50] The establishment of Spiritualism, an occult religion influenced by both Swedenborgianism and Mesmerism, in the U.S. during the 1840s has also been identified as a precursor to the New Age, in particular through its rejection of established Christianity, its claims to representing a scientific approach to religion, and its emphasis on channeling spirit entities.

“Most of the beliefs which characterise the New Age were already present by the end of the 19th century, even to such an extent that one may legitimately wonder whether the New Age brings anything new at all.”

Historian of religion Wouter Hanegraaff, 1996.

A further major influence on the New Age was the Theosophical Society, an occult group co-founded by the Russian Helena Blavatsky in the late 19th century. In her books Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888), Blavatsky claimed that her Society was conveying the essence of all world religions, and it thus emphasized a focus on comparative religion.[53] Serving as a partial bridge between Theosophical ideas and those of the New Age was the American esotericist Edgar Cayce, who founded the Association for Research and Enlightenment. Another influence was New Thought, which developed in late nineteenth century New England as a Christian-oriented healing movement before spreading throughout the United States.[55] Another prominent influence was the psychologist Carl Jung. Drury also identified as an important influence upon the New Age the Indian Swami Vivekananda, an adherent of the philosophy of Vedanta who first brought Hinduism to the West in the late 19th century.

Hanegraaff believed that the New Age’s direct antecedents could be found in the UFO religions of the 1950s, which he termed a “proto-New Age movement”. Many of these new religious movements had strong apocalyptic beliefs regarding a coming new age, which they typically asserted would be brought about by contact with extraterrestrials. Examples of such groups included the Aetherius Society, founded in the UK in 1955, and the Heralds of the New Age, established in New Zealand in 1956.

From a historical perspective, the New Age phenomenon is rooted in the counterculture of the 1960s. Although not common throughout the counterculture, usage of the terms “New Age” and “Age of Aquarius” used in reference to a coming era were found within it, for instance appearing on adverts for the Woodstock festival of 1969, and in the lyrics of “Aquarius”, the opening song of the 1967 musical Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.This decade also witnessed the emergence of a variety of new religious movements and newly established religions in the United States, creating a spiritual milieu from which the New Age drew upon; these included the San Francisco Zen Center, Transcendental Meditation, Soka Gakkai, the Inner Peace Movement, the Church of All Worlds, and the Church of Satan. Although there had been an established interest in Asian religious ideas in the U.S. from at least the eighteenth-century, many of these new developments were variants of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sufism, which had been imported to the West from Asia following the U.S. government’s decision to rescind the Asian Exclusion Act in 1965. In 1962 the Esalen Institute was established in Big Sur, California.[68] Esalen and similar personal growth centers had developed links to humanistic psychology, and from this, the human potential movement emerged, strongly influenced the New Age.[69]

In Britain, a number of small religious groups that came to be identified as the “light” movement had begun declaring the existence of a coming new age, influenced strongly by the Theosophical ideas of Blavatsky and Bailey. The most prominent of these groups was the Findhorn Foundation, which founded the Findhorn Ecovillage in the Scottish area of Findhorn, Moray in 1962. Although its founders were from an older generation, Findhorn attracted increasing numbers of countercultural baby boomers during the 1960s, to the extent that its population had grown sixfold to circa 120 residents by 1972. In October 1965, the founder of Findhorn, Peter Caddy, attended a meeting of various prominent figures within Britain’s esoteric milieu; titled “The Significance of the Group in the New Age”, it was held at Attingham Park over the course of a weekend.

All of these groups created the backdrop from which the New Age movement emerged. As James R. Lewis and J. Gordon Melton point out, the New Age phenomenon represents “a synthesis of many different preexisting movements and strands of thought”. Nevertheless, York asserted that while the New Age bore many similarities with both earlier forms of Western esotericism and Asian religion, it remained “distinct from its predecessors in its own self-consciousness as a new way of thinking”.

“The late 1950s saw the first stirrings within the cultic milieu of a belief in a coming new age. A variety of small movements arose, revolving around revealed messages from beings in space and presenting a synthesis of post-Theosophical and other esoteric doctrines. These movements might have remained marginal, had it not been for the explosion of the counterculture in the 1960s and early 1970s. Various historical threads… began to converge: nineteenth century doctrinal elements such as Theosophy and post-Theosophical esotericism as well as harmonious or positive thinking were now eclectically combined with… religious psychologies: transpersonal psychology, Jungianism and a variety of Eastern teachings. It became perfectly feasible for the same individuals to consult the I Ching, practice Jungian astrology, read Abraham Maslow’s writings on peak experiences, etc. The reason for the ready incorporation of such disparate sources was a similar goal of exploring an individualized and largely non-Christian religiosity.”

Scholar of esotericism Olav Hammer, 2001.

By the early 1970s, use of the term “New Age” was increasingly common within the cultic milieu. This was becauseaccording to Sutcliffethe “emblem” of the “New Age” had been passed from the “subcultural pioneers” in groups like Findhorn to the wider array of “countercultural baby boomers” between circa 1967 and 1974. He noted that as this happened, the meaning of the term “New Age” changed; whereas it had once referred specifically to a coming era, at this point it came to be used in a wider sense to refer to a variety of spiritual activities and practices. In the latter part of the 1970s, the New Age expanded to cover a wide variety of alternative spiritual and religious beliefs and practices, not all of which explicitly held to the belief in the Age of Aquarius, but were nevertheless widely recognised as broadly similar in their search for “alternatives” to mainstream society. In doing so, the “New Age” became a banner under which to bring together the wider “cultic milieu” of American society.

The counterculture of the 1960s had rapidly declined by the start of the 1970s, in large part due to the collapse of the commune movement, but it would be many former members of the counter-culture and hippie subculture who subsequently became early adherents of the New Age movement.The exact origins of the New Age movement remain an issue of debate; Melton asserted that it emerged in the early 1970s, whereas Hanegraaff instead traced its emergence to the latter 1970s, adding that it then entered its full development in the 1980s. This early form of the movement was based largely in Britain and exhibited a strong influence from Theosophy and Anthroposophy. Hanegraaff termed this early core of the movement the New Age sensu stricto, or “New Age in the strict sense”.

Hanegraaff terms the broader development the New Age sensu lato, or “New Age in the wider sense”. Stores that came to be known as “New Age shops” opened up, selling related books, magazines, jewellery, and crystals, and they were typified by the playing of New Age music and the smell of incense.This probably influenced several thousand small metaphysical book- and gift-stores that increasingly defined themselves as “New Age bookstores”,[84] while New Age titles came to be increasingly available from mainstream bookstores and then websites like Amazon.com.

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. Marilyn Ferguson’s 1982 book The Aquarian Conspiracy has also been regarded as a landmark work in the development of the New Age, promoting the idea that a new era was emerging. 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 that 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.

Several key events occurred, which raised public awareness of the New Age subculture: publication of Linda Goodman’s best-selling astrology books Sun Signs (1968) and Love Signs (1978); the release of Shirley MacLaine’s book Out on a Limb (1983), later adapted into a television mini-series with the same name (1987); and the “Harmonic Convergence” planetary alignment on August 16 and 17, 1987,[93] organized by Jos Argelles in Sedona, Arizona. The Convergence attracted more people to the movement than any other single event. Heelas suggested that the movement was influenced by the “enterprise culture” encouraged by the U.S. and U.K. governments during the 1980s onward, with its emphasis on initiative and self-reliance resonating with any New Age ideas.

The claims of channelers Jane Roberts (Seth Material), Helen Schucman (A Course in Miracles), J. Z. Knight (Ramtha), Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God) (note that Walsch denies being a “channeler” and his books make it obvious that he is not one, though the text emerged through a dialogue with a deeper part of himself in a process comparable to automatic writing) contributed to the movement’s growth.[96][97] The first significant exponent of the New Age movement in the U.S. has been cited as Ram Dass. Core works in the propagating New Age ideas included Jane Roberts’s Seth series, published from 1972 onward, Helen Schucman’s 1975 publication A Course in Miracles, and James Redfield’s 1993 work The Celestine Prophecy. A variety of these books were best sellers, with the Seth book series for instance selling over a million copies. Supplementing these books were videos, audiotapes, compact discs and websites. The development of the internet in particular further popularized New Age ideas and made them more widely accessible.

New Age ideas influenced the development of rave culture in the late 1980s and 1990s. In Britain during the 1980s, the term “New Age Travellers” came into use, although York characterised this term as “a misnomer created by the media”. These New Age Travellers had little to do with the New Age as the term was used more widely, with scholar of religion Daren Kemp observing that “New Age spirituality is not an essential part of New Age Traveller culture, although there are similarities between the two worldviews”. The term “New Age” came to be used increasingly widely by the popular media in the 1990s.

By the late 1980s, some publishers dropped the term “New Age” as a marketing device. In 1994, the scholar of religion Gordon J. Melton presented a conference paper in which he argued that, given that he knew of nobody describing their practices as “New Age” anymore, the New Age had died. In 2001, Hammer observed that the term “New Age” had increasingly been rejected as either pejorative or meaningless by individuals within the Western cultic milieu. He also noted that within this milieu it was not being replaced by any alternative, and that as such a sense of collective identity was being lost.

Other scholars disagreed with Melton’s idea; in 2004 Daren Kemp stated that “New Age is still very much alive”. Hammer himself stated that “the New Age movement may be on the wane, but the wider New Age religiosity… shows no sign of disappearing”. MacKian suggested that the New Age “movement” had been replaced by a wider “New Age sentiment” which had come to pervade “the socio-cultural landscape” of Western countries. Its diffusion into the mainstream may have been influenced by the adoption of New Age concepts by high profile figures: U.S. First Lady Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer, British Princess Diana visited spirit mediums, and Norwegian Princess Mrtha Louise established a school devoted to communicating with angels. New Age shops continued to operate, although many have been remarketed as “Mind, Body, Spirit”.

In 2015, the scholar of religion Hugh Urban argued that New Age spirituality is growing in the United States and can be expected to become more visible: “According to many recent surveys of religious affiliation, the ‘spiritual but not religious’ category is one of the fastest-growing trends in American culture, so the New Age attitude of spiritual individualism and eclecticism may well be an increasingly visible one in the decades to come”.

The New Age places strong emphasis on the idea that the individual and their own experiences are the primary source of authority on spiritual matters. It exhibits what Heelas termed “unmediated individualism”, and reflects a world-view that is “radically democratic”. It places an emphasis on the freedom and autonomy of the individual. This emphasis has led to ethical disagreements; some New Agers believe helping others is beneficial, although another view is that doing so encourages dependency and conflicts with a reliance on the self. Nevertheless, within the New Age, there are differences in the role accorded to voices of authority outside of the self. Hammer stated that “a belief in the existence of a core or true Self” is a “recurring theme” in New Age texts. The concept of “personal growth” is also greatly emphasised among New Agers, while Heelas noted that “for participants spirituality is life-itself”.

New Age religiosity is typified by its eclecticism. Generally believing that there is no one true way to pursue spirituality, New Agers develop their own worldview “by combining bits and pieces to form their own individual mix”, seeking what Drury called “a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas”. The anthropologist David J. Hess noted that in his experience, a common attitude among New Agers was that “any alternative spiritual path is good because it is spiritual and alternative”. This approach that has generated a common jibe that New Age represents “supermarket spirituality”. York suggested that this eclecticism stemmed from the New Age’s origins within late modern capitalism, with New Agers subscribing to a belief in a free market of spiritual ideas as a parallel to a free market in economics.

As part of its eclecticism, the New Age draws ideas from many different cultural and spiritual traditions from across the world, often legitimising this approach by reference to “a very vague claim” about underlying global unity. Certain societies are more usually chosen over others; examples include the ancient Celts, ancient Egyptians, the Essenes, Atlanteans, and ancient extra-terrestrials. As noted by Hammer: “to put it bluntly, no significant spokespersons within the New Age community claim to represent ancient Albanian wisdom, simply because beliefs regarding ancient Albanians are not part of our cultural stereotypes”. According to Hess, these ancient or foreign societies represent an exotic “Other” for New Agers, who are predominantly white Westerners.

A belief in divinity is integral to New Age ideas, although understandings of this divinity vary. New Age theology exhibits an inclusive and universalistic approach that accepts all personal perspectives on the divine as equally valid. This intentional vagueness as to the nature of divinity also reflects the New Age idea that divinity cannot be comprehended by the human mind or language. New Age literature nevertheless displays recurring traits in its depiction of the divine: the first is the idea that it is holistic, thus frequently being described with such terms as an “Ocean of Oneness”, “Infinite Spirit”, “Primal Stream”, “One Essence”, and “Universal Principle”. A second trait is the characterisation of divinity as “Mind”, “Consciousness”, and “Intelligence”, while a third is the description of divinity as a form of “energy”. A fourth trait is the characterisation of divinity as a “life force”, the essence of which is creativity, while a fifth is the concept that divinity consists of love.

Most New Age groups believe in an Ultimate Source from which all things originate, which is usually conflated with the divine. Various creation myths have been articulated in New Age publications outlining how this Ultimate Source created the universe and everything in it. In contrast, some New Agers emphasise the idea of a universal inter-relatedness that is not always emanating from a single source. The New Age worldview emphasises holism and the idea that everything in existence is intricately connected as part of a single whole, in doing so rejecting both the dualism of Judeo-Christian thought and the reductionism of Cartesian science. A number of New Agers have linked this holistic interpretation of the universe to the Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock. The idea of holistic divinity results in a common New Age belief that humans themselves are divine in essence, a concept described using such terms as “droplet of divinity”, “inner Godhead”, and “divine self”. Influenced by Theosophical and Anthroposophical ideas regarding ‘subtle bodies’, a common New Age idea holds to the existence of a “Higher Self” that is a part of the human but connects with the divine essence of the universe, and which can advise the human mind through intuition.

Cosmogonical creation stories are common in New Age sources, with these accounts reflecting the movement’s holistic framework by describing an original, primal oneness from which all things in the universe emanated. An additional common theme is that human souls once living in a spiritual world then descended into a world of matter.The New Age movement typically views the material universe as a meaningful illusion, which humans should try to use constructively rather than focus on escaping into other spiritual realms. This physical world is hence seen as “a domain for learning and growth” after which the human soul might pass on to higher levels of existence. There is thus a widespread belief that reality is engaged in an ongoing process of evolution; rather than Darwinian evolution, this is typically seen as either a teleological evolution which assumes a process headed to a specific goal, or an open-ended, creative evolution.

“In the flood of channeled material which has been published or delivered to “live” audiences in the last two decades, there is much indeed that is trivial, contradictory, and confusing. The authors of much of this material make claims that, while not necessarily untrue or fraudulent, are difficult or impossible for the reader to verify. A number of other channeled documents address issues more immediately relevant to the human condition. The best of these writings are not only coherent and plausible, but eloquently persuasive and sometimes disarmingly moving.”

Academic Suzanne Riordan, 1992.

MacKian argued that a central, but often overlooked, element of the phenomenon was an emphasis on “spirit”, and in particular participants’ desire for a relationship with spirit. Many practitioners in her UK-focused study described themselves as “workers for spirit”, expressing the desire to help people learn about spirit. They understood various material signs as marking the presence of spirit, for instance the unexpected appearance of a feather. New Agers often call upon this spirit to assist them in everyday situations, for instance to ease the traffic flow on their way to work.

New Age literature often refers to benevolent non-human spirit-beings who are interested in humanity’s spiritual development; these are variously referred to as angels, guardian angels, personal guides, masters, teachers, and contacts. New Age angelology is nevertheless unsystematic, reflecting the idiosyncrasies of individual authors. The figure of Jesus Christ is often mentioned within New Age literature as a mediating principle between divinity and humanity, as well as an exemplar of a spiritually advanced human being.

Although not present in every New Age group, a core belief within the milieu is in channeling. This is the idea that humans beings, sometimes (although not always) in a state of trance, can act “as a channel of information from sources other than their normal selves”. These sources are varyingly described as being God, gods and goddesses, ascended masters, spirit guides, extraterrestrials, angels, devas, historical figures, the collective unconscious, elementals, or nature spirits. Hanegraaff described channeling as a form of “articulated revelation”, and identified four forms: trance channeling, automatisms, clairaudient channeling, and open channeling.

Prominent examples of New Age channeling include Jane Roberts’ claims that she was contacted by an entity called Seth, and Helen Schucman’s claims to have channeled Jesus Christ. The academic Suzanne Riordan examined a variety of these New Age channeled messages, noting that they typically “echoed each other in tone and content”, offering an analysis of the human condition and giving instructions or advice for how humanity can discover its true destiny.For many New Agers, these channeled messages rival the scriptures of the main world religions as sources of spiritual authority, although often New Agers describe historical religious revelations as forms of “channeling” as well, thus attempting to legitimate and authenticate their own contemporary practices. Although the concept of channeling from discarnate spirit entities has links to Spiritualism and psychical research, the New Age does not feature Spiritualism’s emphasis on proving the existence of life after death, nor psychical research’s focus of testing mediums for consistency.

New Age thought typically envisions the world as developing through cosmological cycles that can be identified astrologically. It adopts this concept from Theosophy, although often presents it in a looser and more eclectic way than is found in Theosophical teaching. New Age literature often claims that humanity once lived in an age of spiritual wisdom. In the writings of New Agers like Edgar Cayce, the ancient period of spiritual wisdom is associated with concepts of supremely-advanced societies living on lost continents such as Atlantis, Lemuria, and Mu, as well as the idea that ancient societies like those of Ancient Egypt were far more technologically advanced than modern scholarship accepts.New Age literature often posits that the ancient period of spiritual wisdom gave way to an age of spiritual decline, sometimes termed the Age of Pisces. Although characterised as being a negative period for humanity, New Age literature views the Age of Pisces as an important learning experience for the species. Hanegraaff stated that New Age perceptions of history were “extremely sketchy” in their use of description, reflecting little interest in historiography and conflating history with myth. He also noted that they were highly ethnocentric in placing Western civilization at the centre of historical development.

A common belief among the New Age is that humanity has entered, or is coming to enter, a new period known as the Age of Aquarius, which Melton has characterised as a “New Age of love, joy, peace, abundance, and harmony[…] the Golden Age heretofore only dreamed about.” In accepting this belief in a coming new age, the milieu has been described as “highly positive, celebratory, [and] utopian”, and has also been cited as an apocalyptic movement. Opinions about the nature of the coming Age of Aquarius differ among New Agers. There are for instance differences in belief about its commencement; New Age author David Spangler claimed that it began in 1967, others placed its beginning with the Harmonic Convergence of 1987, author Jos Argelles predicted its start in 2012, and some believe that it will not begin until several centuries into the third millennium.

There are also differences in how this new age is envisioned. Those adhering to what Hanegraaff termed the “moderate” perspective believed that it would be marked by an improvement to current society, which affected both New Age concernsthrough the convergence of science and mysticism and the global embrace of alternative medicineto more general concerns, including an end to violence, crime and war, a healthier environment, and international co-operation. Other New Agers adopt a fully utopian vision, believing that the world will be wholly transformed into an “Age of Light”, with humans evolving into totally spiritual beings and experiencing unlimited love, bliss, and happiness. Rather than conceiving of the Age of Aquarius as an indefinite period, many believe that it would last for around two thousand years before being replaced by a further age.

There are various beliefs within the milieu as to how this new age will come about, but most emphasise the idea that it will be established through human agency; others assert that it will be established with the aid of non-human forces such as spirits or extra-terrestrials. Ferguson for instance claimed that there was a vanguard of humans known as the “Aquarian conspiracy” who were helping to bring the Age of Aquarius forth through their actions. Participants in the New Age typically express the view that their own spiritual actions are helping to bring about the Age of Aquarius, with writers like Ferguson and Argelles presenting themselves as prophets ushering forth this future era.

Another recurring element of New Age is an emphasis on healing and alternative medicine.[201] The general New Age ethos is that health is the natural state for the human being and that illness is a disruption of that natural balance. Hence, New Age therapies seek to heal “illness” as a general concept that includes physical, mental, and spiritual aspects; in doing so it critiques mainstream Western medicine for simply attempting to cure disease, and thus has an affinity with most forms of traditional medicine. Its focus of self-spirituality has led to the emphasis of self-healing, although also present are ideas on healing both others and the Earth itself.

The healing elements of the movement are difficult to classify given that a variety of terms are used, with some New Age authors using different terms to refer to the same trends, while others use the same term to refer to different things. However, Hanegraaff developed a set of categories into which the forms of New Age healing could be roughly categorised. The first of these was the Human Potential Movement, which argues that contemporary Western society suppresses much human potential, and accordingly professes to offer a path through which individuals can access those parts of themselves that they have alienated and suppressed, thus enabling them to reach their full potential and live a meaningful life. Hanegraaff described transpersonal psychology as the “theoretical wing” of this Human Potential Movement; in contrast to other schools of psychological thought, transpersonal psychology takes religious and mystical experiences seriously by exploring the uses of altered states of consciousness. Closely connected to this is the shamanic consciousness current, which argues that the shaman was a specialist in altered states of consciousness and seeks to adopt and imitate traditional shamanic techniques as a form of personal healing and growth.

Hanegraaff identified the second main healing current in the New Age movement as being holistic health. This emerged in the 1970s out of the free clinic movement of the 1960s, and has various connections with the Human Potential Movement. It emphasises the idea that the human individual is a holistic, interdependent relationship between mind, body, and spirit, and that healing is a process in which an individual becomes whole by integrating with the powers of the universe. A very wide array of methods are utilised within the holistic health movement, with some of the most common including acupuncture, reiki, biofeedback, chiropractic, yoga, kinesiology, homeopathy, aromatherapy iridology, massage and other forms of bodywork, meditation and visualisation, nutritional therapy, psychic healing, herbal medicine, healing using crystals, metals, music, chromotherapy, and reincarnation therapy. The use of crystal healing has become a particularly prominent visual trope within the New Age; this practice was not common in esotericism prior to their adoption in the New Age milieu.The mainstreaming of the Holistic Health movement in the UK is discussed by Maria Tighe. The inter-relation of holistic health with the New Age movement is illustrated in Jenny Butler’s ethnographic description of “Angel therapy” in Ireland.[201]

“The New Age is essentially about the search for spiritual and philosophical perspectives that will help transform humanity and the world. New Agers are willing to absorb wisdom teachings wherever they can find them, whether from an Indian guru, a renegade Christian priest, an itinerant Buddhist monk, an experiential psychotherapist or a Native American shaman. They are eager to explore their own inner potential with a view to becoming part of a broader process of social transformation. Their journey is towards totality of being.”

New Ager Nevill Drury, 2004.

According to Drury, the New Age attempts to create “a worldview that includes both science and spirituality”, while Hess noted how New Agers have “a penchant for bringing together the technical and the spiritual, the scientific and the religious”.Although New Agers typically reject rationalism, the scientific method, and the academic establishment, they employ terminology and concepts borrowed from science and particularly from the New Physics. Moreover, a number of prominent influences on New Age, such as David Bohm and Ilya Prigogine, had backgrounds as professional scientists. Hanegraaff identified “New Age science” as a form of Naturphilosophie.

In this, the milieu is interested in developing unified world views to discover the nature of the divine and establish a scientific basis for religious belief. Figures in the New Age movementmost notably Fritjof Capra in his The Tao of Physics (1975)have drawn parallels between theories in the New Physics and traditional forms of mysticism, thus arguing that ancient religious ideas are now being proven by contemporary science. Many New Agers have adopted James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis that the Earth acts akin to a single living organism, although have expanded this idea to include the idea that the Earth has consciousness and intelligence.

Despite New Agers’ appeals to science, most of the academic and scientific establishments dismiss “New Age science” as pseudo-science, or at best existing in part on the fringes of genuine scientific research. This is an attitude also shared by many active in the field of parapsychology. In turn, New Agers often accuse the scientific establishment of pursuing a dogmatic and outmoded approach to scientific enquiry, believing that their own understandings of the universe will replace those of the academic establishment in a paradigm shift.

There is no ethical cohesion within the New Age phenomenon, although Hanegraaff argued that the central ethical tenet of the New Age is to cultivate one’s own divine potential. Given that the movement’s holistic interpretation of the universe prohibits a belief in a dualistic good and evil, negative events that happen are interpreted not as the result of evil but as lessons designed to teach an individual and enable them to advance spiritually.It rejects the Christian emphasis on sin and guilt, believing that these generate fear and thus negativity, which then hinder spiritual evolution. It also typically criticises the blaming and judging of others for their actions, believing that if an individual adopts these negative attitudes it harms their own spiritual evolution. Instead the movement emphasizes positive thinking, although beliefs regarding the power behind such thoughts vary within New Age literature. Common New Age examples of how to generate such positive thinking include the repeated recitation of mantras and statements carrying positive messages, and the visualisation of a white light.

According to Hanegraaff, the question of death and afterlife is not a “pressing problem requiring an answer” in the New Age. A belief in reincarnation is very common, where it often viewed as being part of an individual’s progressive spiritual evolution toward realisation of their own divinity. In New Age literature, the reality of reincarnation is usually treated as self-evident, with no explanation as to why practitioners embrace this afterlife belief over others, although New Agers endorse it in the belief that it ensures cosmic justice. Many New Agers believe in karma, treating it as a law of cause and effect that assures cosmic balance, although in some cases they stress that it is not a system that enforces punishment for past actions.In much New Age literature on reincarnation, it is claimed that part of the human soul, that which carries the personality, perishes with the death of the body, while the Higher Self that which connects with divinity survives in order to be reborn into another body. It is believed that the Higher Self chooses the body and circumstances into which it will be born, in order to use it as a vessel through which to learn new lessons and thus advance its own spiritual evolution. Prominent New Age writers like Shakti Gawain and Louise Hay therefore express the view that humans are responsible for the events that happen to them during their life, an idea that many New Agers regard as empowering. At times, past life regression are employed within the New Age in order to reveal a Higher Soul’s previous incarnations, usually with an explicit healing purpose. Some practitioners espouse the idea of a “soul group” or “soul family”, a group of connected souls who reincarnate together as family of friendship units. Rather than reincarnation, another afterlife belief found among New Agers holds that an individual’s soul returns to a “universal energy” on bodily death.

By the early twenty-first century… [the New Age phenomenon] has an almost entirely white, middle-class demography largely made up of professional, managerial, arts, and entrepreneurial occupations.

Religious studies scholar Steven J. Sutcliffe.

In the mid-1990s, the New Age was found primarily in the United States and Canada, Western Europe, and Australia and New Zealand. The fact that most individuals engaging in New Age activity do not describe themselves as “New Agers” renders it difficult to determine how many practitioners there are. Heelas highlighted the range of attempts to establish the number of New Age participants in the U.S. during this period, noting that estimates ranged from 20,000 to 6 million; he believed that the higher ranges of these estimates were greatly inflated by, for instance, an erroneous assumption that all Americans who believed in reincarnation were part of the movement. He nevertheless suggested that over 10 million people in the U.S. had had some contact with New Age practices or ideas. In 2006, Heelas stated that New Age practices had grown to such an extent that they were “increasingly rivalling the sway of Christianity in western settings”.

Sociological investigation indicates that certain sectors of society are more likely to engage in New Age practices than others. The majority of participants are from the middle and upper-middle classes of Western society. Sutcliffe noted that although most influential New Age figureheads were male, approximately two-thirds of its participants were female.The movement is strongly gendered; sociologist Ciara O’Connor argues that it shows a tension between commodification and women’s empowerment.[253] Sutcliffe described the “typical” participant in the New Age milieu as being “a religious individualist, mixing and matching cultural resources in an animated spiritual quest”.

In the United States, the first people to embrace the New Age belonged to the baby boomer generation, those born between 1946 and 1964. Heelas added that within that broad demographic, the movement had nevertheless attracted a diverse clientele. He typified the typical New Ager as someone who was well-educated yet disenchanted with mainstream society, thus arguing that the movement catered to those who believe that modernity is in crisis. He suggested that the movement appealed to many former practitioners of the 1960s counter-culture because while they came to feel that they were unable to change society, they were nonetheless interested in changing the self. He believed that many individuals had been “culturally primed for what the New Age has to offer”, with the New Age attracting “expressive” people who were already comfortable with the ideals and outlooks of the movement’s self-spirituality focus. It could be particularly appealing because the New Age suited the needs of the individual, whereas traditional religious options that are available primarily catered for the needs of a community. He believed that although the adoption of New Age beliefs and practices by some fitted the model of religious conversion, others who adopted some of its practices could not easily be considered to have converted to the religion.

The degree to which individuals are involved in the New Age varies. Heelas argued that those involved could be divided into three broad groups; the first comprised those who were completely dedicated to it and its ideals, often working in professions that furthered those goals. The second consisted of “serious part-timers” who worked in unrelated fields but who nevertheless spent much of their free time involved in movement activities. The third was that of “casual part-timers” who occasionally involved themselves in New Age activities but for whom the movement was not a central aspect of their life. MacKian instead suggested that involvement could be seen as being layered like an onion; at the core are “consultative” practitioners who devote their life to New Age practices, around that are “serious” practitioners who still invest considerable effort into New Age activities, and on the periphery are “non-practitioner consumers”, individuals affected by he general dissemination of New Age ideas but who do not devote themselves more fully to them. Many New Age practices have filtered into wider Western society, with a 2000 poll for instance revealing that 39% of the UK population had tried alternative therapies.

In 1995, Kyle stated that on the whole, New Agers in the United States preferred the values of the Democratic Party over those of the Republican Party. He added that most New Agers “soundly rejected” the agenda of former Republican President Ronald Reagan.

MacKian suggested that this phenomenon was “an inherently social mode of spirituality”, one which cultivated a sense of belonging among its participants and encouraged relations both with other humans and with non-human, otherworldly spirit entities.MacKian suggested that these communities “may look very different” from those of traditional religious groups.

Online connections were one of the ways that interested individuals met new contacts and established networks.

Some New Agers advocate living in a simple and sustainable manner to reduce humanity’s impact on the natural resources of Earth; and they shun consumerism.[272] The New Age movement has been centered around rebuilding a sense of community to counter social disintegration; this has been attempted through the formation of intentional communities, where individuals come together to live and work in a communal lifestyle.[273] Bruce argued that in seeking to “denying the validity of externally imposed controls and privileging the divine within”, the New Age sought to dismantle pre-existing social order, but that it failed to present anything adequate in its place. Heelas however cautioned that Bruce had arrived at this conclusion based on “flimsy evidence”.

New Age centres have been set up in various parts of the world, representing an institutionalised form of the movement. Notable examples include the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, Holly Hock Farm near to Vancouver, the Wrekin Trust in West Malvern, Worcestershire, and the Skyros Centre in Skyros.

Criticising mainstream Western education as counterproductive to the ethos of the movement, many New Age groups have established their own schools for the education of children, although in other cases such groups have sought to introduce New Age spiritual techniques into pre-existing establishments.

New Age spirituality has led to a wide array of literature on the subject and an active niche market, with books, music, crafts, and services in alternative medicine available at New Age stores, fairs, and festivals.[citation needed]New Age fairs sometimes known as “Mind, Body, Spirit fairs”, “psychic fairs”, or “alternative health fairs” are spaces in which a variety of goods and services are displayed by different vendors, including forms of alternative medicine and esoteric practices such as palmistry or tarot card reading. A prominent example is the Mind Body Spirit Festival, held annually in the United Kingdom, at which the religious studies scholar Christopher Partridge noted one could encounter “a wide range of beliefs and practices from crystal healing to … Kirlian photography to psychic art, from angels to past-life therapy, from Theosophy to UFO religion, and from New Age music to the vegetarianism of Suma Chign Hai.” Similar festivals are held across Europe and in Australia and the United States.

A number of New Age proponents have emphasised the use of spiritual techniques as a tool for attaining financial prosperity, thus moving the movement away from its counter-cultural origins. Commenting on this “New Age capitalism”, Hess observed that it was largely small-scale and entrepreneurial, focused around small companies run by members of the petty bourgeoisie, rather than being dominated by large scale multinational corporations. The links between New Age and commercial products have resulted in the accusation that New Age itself is little more than a manifestation of consumerism. This idea is generally rejected by New Age participants, who often reject any link between their practices and consumerist activities.

Embracing this attitude, various books have been published espousing such an ethos, established New Age centres have held spiritual retreats and classes aimed specifically at business people, and New Age groups have developed specialised training for businesses. During the 1980s, many prominent U.S. corporationsamong them IBM, AT&T, and General Motorsembraced New Age seminars, hoping that they could increase productivity and efficiency among their work force, although in several cases this resulted in employees bringing legal action against their employers, claiming that such seminars had infringed on their religious beliefs or damaged their psychological health. However, the use of spiritual techniques as a method for attaining profit has been an issue of major dispute within the wider New Age movement, with prominent New Agers such as Spangler and Matthew Fox criticising what they see as trends within the community that are narcissistic and lack a social conscience. In particular, the movement’s commercial elements have caused problems given that they often conflict with its general economically-egalitarian ethos; as York highlighted, “a tension exists in New Age between socialistic egalitarianism and capitalistic private enterprise”.

Given that it encourages individuals to choose spiritual practices on the grounds of personal preference and thus encourages them to behave as a consumer, the New Age has been considered to be well suited to modern society.

The term “New Age music” is applied, sometimes in a derogative manner, to forms of ambient music, a genre that developed in the 1960s and was popularised in the 1970s, particularly with the work of Brian Eno. The genre’s relaxing nature resulted in it becoming popular within New Age circles, with some forms of the genre having a specifically New Age orientation.Studies have determined that new-age music can be an effective component of stress management.[296]

The style began in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the works of free-form jazz groups recording on the ECM label; such as Oregon, the Paul Winter Consort, and other pre-ambient bands; as well as ambient music performer Brian Eno, classical avant-garde musician Daniel Kobialka,[297][298] and the psychoacoustic environments recordings of Irv Teibel.[299] In the early 1970s, it was mostly instrumental with both acoustic and electronic styles. New-age music evolved to include a wide range of styles from electronic space music using synthesizers and acoustic instrumentals using Native American flutes and drums, singing bowls, Australian didgeredoos and world music sounds to spiritual chanting from other cultures.[297][298]

While many commentators have focused on the spiritual and cultural aspects of the New Age movement, it also has a political component. The New Age political movement became visible in the 1970s, peaked in the 1980s, and continued into the 1990s.[300] The sociologist of religion Steven Bruce noted that the New Age provides ideas on how to deal with “our socio-psychological problems”. Scholar of religion James R. Lewis observed that, despite the common caricature of New Agers as narcissistic, “significant numbers” of them were “trying to make the planet a better place on which to live,” and scholar J. Gordon Melton’s New Age Encyclopedia (1990) included an entry called “New Age politics”. Some New Agers have entered the political system in an attempt to advocate for the societal transformation that the New Age promotes.

Although New Age activists have been motivated by New Age concepts like holism, interconnectedness, monism, and environmentalism, their political ideas are diverse, ranging from far-right and conservative through to liberal, socialist, and libertarian. Accordingly, Kyle stated that “New Age politics is difficult to describe and categorize. The standard political labelsleft or right, liberal or conservativemiss the mark.” MacKian suggested that the New Age operated as a form of “world-realigning infrapolitics” that undermines the disenchantment of modern Western society.

The extent to which New Age spokespeople mix religion and politics varies. New Agers are often critical of the established political order, regarding it as “fragmented, unjust, hierarchical, patriarchal, and obsolete”. The New Ager Mark Satin for instance spoke of “New Age politics” as a politically radical “third force” that was “neither left nor right”. He believed that in contrast to the conventional political focus on the “institutional and economic symptoms” of society’s problems, his “New Age politics” would focus on “psychocultural roots” of these issues. Ferguson regarded New Age politics as “a kind of Radical Centre”, one that was “not neutral, not middle-of-the-road, but a view of the whole road.” Fritjof Capra argued that Western societies have become sclerotic because of their adherence to an outdated and mechanistic view of reality, which he calls the Newtonian/Cartesian paradigm. In Capra’s view, the West needs to develop an organic and ecological “systems view” of reality in order to successfully address its social and political issues. Corinne McLaughlin argued that politics need not connote endless power struggles, that a new “spiritual politics” could attempt to synthesize opposing views on issues into higher levels of understanding.[310]

Many New Agers advocate globalisation and localisation, but reject nationalism and the role of the nation-state. Some New Age spokespeople have called for greater decentralisation and global unity, but are vague about how this might be achieved; others call for a global, centralised government. Satin for example argued for a move away from the nation-state and towards self-governing regions that, through improved global communication networks, would help engender world unity. Benjamin Creme conversely argued that “the Christ,” a great Avatar, Maitreya, the World Teacher, expected by all the major religions as their “Awaited One,” would return to the world and establish a strong, centralised global government in the form of the United Nations; this would be politically re-organised along a spiritual hierarchy. Kyle observed that New Agers often speak favourably of democracy and citizens’ involvement in policy making but are critical of representative democracy and majority rule, thus displaying elitist ideas to their thinking.

Scholars have noted several New Age political groups. Self-Determination: A Personal/Political Network, lauded by Ferguson[315] and Satin,[316] was described at length by sociology of religion scholar Steven Tipton.[317] Founded in 1975 by California state legislator John Vasconcellos and others, it encouraged Californians to engage in personal growth work and political activities at the same time, especially at the grassroots level.[318] Hanegraaff noted another California-based group, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, headed by author Willis Harman. It advocated a change in consciousness in “basic underlying assumptions” in order to come to grips with global crises. Kyle said that the New York City-based Planetary Citizens organization, headed by United Nations consultant and Earth at Omega author Donald Keys, sought to implement New Age political ideas.

Scholar J. Gordon Melton and colleagues focused on the New World Alliance, a Washington, DC-based organization founded in 1979 by Mark Satin and others. According to Melton et al., the Alliance tried to combine left- and right-wing ideas as well as personal growth work and political activities. Group decision-making was facilitated by short periods of silence. Sponsors of the Alliance’s national political newsletter included Willis Harman and John Vasconcellos.[322] Scholar James R. Lewis counted “Green politics” as one of the New Age’s more visible activities. One academic book claims that the U.S. Green Party movement began as an initiative of a handful of activists including Charlene Spretnak, co-author of a “‘new age’ interpretation” of the German Green movement (Capra and Spretnak’s Green Politics), and Mark Satin, author of New Age Politics.[323] Another academic publication says Spretnak and Satin largely co-drafted the U.S. Greens’ founding document, the “Ten Key Values” statement.[324]

While the term “New Age” may have fallen out of favor,[325] scholar George Chryssides notes that the New Age by whatever name is “still alive and active” in the 21st century. In the realm of politics, New Ager Mark Satin’s book Radical Middle (2004) reached out to mainstream liberals.[326][327] York (2005) identified “key New Age spokespeople” including William Bloom, Satish Kumar, and Starhawk who were emphasizing a link between spirituality and environmental consciousness. Former Esalen Institute staffer Stephen Dinan’s Sacred America, Sacred World (2016) prompted a long interview of Dinan in Psychology Today, which called the book a “manifesto for our country’s evolution that is both political and deeply spiritual”.[329]

In 2013 longtime New Age author Marianne Williamson launched a campaign for a seat in the United States House of Representatives, telling The New York Times that her type of spirituality was what American politics needed.[330] “America has swerved from its ethical center”, she said.[330] Running as an independent in west Los Angeles, she finished fourth in her district’s open primary election with 13% of the vote.[331]

Mainstream periodicals tended to be less than sympathetic; sociologist Paul Ray and psychologist Sherry Anderson discussed in their 2000 book The Cultural Creatives, what they called the media’s “zest for attacking” New Age ideas, and offered the example of a 1996 Lance Morrow essay in Time magazine.[325] Nearly a decade earlier, Time had run a long cover story critical of New Age culture; the cover featured a head shot of a famous actress beside the headline, “Om…. THE NEW AGE starring Shirley MacLaine, faith healers, channelers, space travelers, and crystals galore”.[332] The story itself, by former Saturday Evening Post editor Otto Friedrich, was sub-titled, “A Strange Mix of Spirituality and Superstition Is Sweeping Across the Country”.[333] In 1988, the magazine The New Republic ran a four-page critique of New Age culture and politics by journalist Richard Blow entitled simply, “Moronic Convergence”.[334]

Some New Agers and New Age sympathizers responded to such criticisms. For example, sympathizers Ray and Anderson said that much of it was an attempt to “stereotype” the movement for idealistic and spiritual change, and to cut back on its popularity.[325] New Age theoretician David Spangler tried to distance himself from what he called the “New Age glamour” of crystals, talk-show channelers, and other easily commercialized phenomena, and sought to underscore his commitment to the New Age as a vision of genuine social transformation.

Initially, academic interest in the New Age was minimal. The earliest academic studies of the New Age phenomenon were performed by specialists in the study of new religious movements such as Robert Ellwood. This research was often scanty because many scholars regarded the New Age as an insignificant cultural fad. Having been influenced by the U.S. anti-cult movement, much of it was also largely negative and critical of New Age groups. The “first truly scholarly study” of the phenomenon was an edited volume put together by James R. Lewis and J. Gordon Melton in 1992. From that point on, the number of published academic studies steadily increased.

In 1994, Christoph Bochinger published his study of the New Age in Germany, “New Age” und moderne Religion. This was followed by Michael York’s sociological study in 1995 and Richard Kyle’s U.S.-focused work in 1995. In 1996, Paul Heelas published a sociological study of the movement in Britain, being the first to discuss its relationship with business. That same year, Wouter Hanegraaff published New Age Religion and Western Culture, a historical analysis of New Age texts; Hammer later described it as having “a well-deserved reputation as the standard reference work on the New Age”. Most of these early studies were based on a textual analysis of New Age publications, rather than on an ethnographic analysis of its practitioners.

Sutcliffe and Gilhus argued that ‘New Age studies’ could be seen as having experienced two waves; in the first, scholars focused on “macro-level analyses of the content and boundaries” of the “movement”, while the second wave featured “more variegated and contextualized studies of particular beliefs and practices”. Sutcliffe and Gilhus have also expressed concern that, as of 2013, ‘New Age studies’ has yet to formulate a set of research questions scholars can pursue.The New Age has proved a challenge for scholars of religion operating under more formative models of what “religion” is. By 2006, Heelas noted that the New Age was so vast and diverse that no scholar of the subject could hope to keep up with all of it.

Mainstream Christianity has typically rejected the ideas of the New Age. Most published criticism of the New Age has been produced by Christians, particularly those on the religion’s fundamentalist wing. In the United States, the New Age became a major concern of evangelical Christian groups in the 1980s, an attitude that came to influence British evangelical groups. During that decade, evangelical writers such as Constance Cumbey, Dave Hunt, Gary North, and Douglas Groothuis published books criticising the New Age from their Christian perspective; a number of them have been characterised as propagating conspiracy theories regarding the origin and purpose of the movement. The most successful such publication however was Frank E. Peretti’s 1986 novel This Present Darkness, which sold over a million copies; it depicted the New Age as being in league with feminism and secular education as part of a conspiracy to overthrow Christianity.

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New Age – Wikipedia

A Stem Cell Transplant Let a Wheelchair-Bound Man Dance Again

Stand Up Guy

For 10 years, Roy Palmer had no feeling in his lower extremities. Two days after receiving a stem cell transplant, he cried tears of joy because he could feel a cramp in his leg.

The technical term for the procedure the British man underwent is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). And while risky, it’s offering new hope to people like Palmer, who found himself wheelchair-bound after multiple sclerosis (MS) caused his immune system to attack his nerves’ protective coverings.

Biological Reboot

Ever hear the IT troubleshooting go-to of turning a system off and on again to fix it? The HSCT process is similar, but instead of a computer, doctors attempt to reboot a patient’s immune system.

To do this, they first remove stem cells from the patient’s body. Then the patient undergoes chemotherapy, which kills the rest of their immune system. After that, the doctors use the extracted stem cells to reboot the patient’s immune system.

It took just two days for the treatment to restore some of the feeling in Palmer’s legs. Eventually, he was able to walk on his own and even dance. He told the BBC in a recent interview that he now feels like he has a second chance at life.

“We went on holiday, not so long ago, to Turkey. I walked on the beach,” said Palmer. “Little things like that, people do not realize what it means to me.”

Risk / Reward

Still, HSCT isn’t some miracle cure for MS. Though it worked for Palmer, that’s not always the case, and HSCT can also cause infections and infertility. The National MS Society still considers HSCT to be an experimental treatment, and the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve the therapy in the U.S.

However, MS affects more than 2.3 million people, and if a stem cell transplant can help even some of those folks the way it helped Palmer, it’s a therapy worth exploring.

READ MORE: Walking Again After Ten Years With MS [BBC]

More on HCST: New Breakthrough Treatment Could “Reverse Disability” for MS Patients

More:

A Stem Cell Transplant Let a Wheelchair-Bound Man Dance Again

AI Dreamed Up These Nightmare Fuel Halloween Masks

Nightmare Fuel

Someone programmed an AI to dream up Halloween masks, and the results are absolute nightmare fuel. Seriously, just look at some of these things.

“What’s so scary or unsettling about it is that it’s not so detailed that it shows you everything,” said Matt Reed, the creator of the masks, in an interview with New Scientist. “It leaves just enough open for your imagination to connect the dots.”

A selection of masks featured on Reed’s twitter. Credit: Matt Reed/Twitter

Creative Horror

To create the masks, Reed — whose day job is as a technologist at a creative agency called redpepper — fed an open source AI tool 5,000 pictures of Halloween masks he sourced from Google Images. He then instructed the tool to generate its own masks.

The fun and spooky project is yet another sign that AI is coming into its own as a creative tool. Just yesterday, a portrait generated by a similar system fetched more than $400,000 at a prominent British auction house.

And Reed’s masks are evocative. Here at the Byte, if we looked through the peephole and saw one of these on a trick or treater, we might not open our door.

READ MORE: AI Designed These Halloween Masks and They Are Absolutely Terrifying [New Scientist]

More on AI-generated art: Generated Art Will Go on Sale Alongside Human-Made Works This Fall

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AI Dreamed Up These Nightmare Fuel Halloween Masks

Robot Security Guards Will Constantly Nag Spectators at the Tokyo Olympics

Over and Over

“The security robot is patrolling. Ding-ding. Ding-ding. The security robot is patrolling. Ding-ding. Ding-ding.”

That’s what Olympic attendees will hear ad nauseam when they step onto the platforms of Tokyo’s train stations in 2020. The source: Perseusbot, a robot security guard Japanese developers unveiled to the press on Thursday.

Observe and Report

According to reporting by Kyodo News, the purpose of the AI-powered Perseusbot is to lower the burden on the stations’ staff when visitors flood Tokyo during the 2020 Olympics.

The robot is roughly 5.5 feet tall and equipped with security cameras that allow it to note suspicious behaviors, such as signs of violence breaking out or unattended packages, as it autonomous patrols the area. It can then alert security staff to the issues by sending notifications directly to their smart phones.

Prior Prepration

Just like the athletes who will head to Tokyo in 2020, Perseusbot already has a training program in the works — it’ll patrol Tokyo’s Seibu Shinjuku Station from November 26 to 30. This dry run should give the bot’s developers a chance to work out any kinks before 2020.

If all goes as hoped, the bot will be ready to annoy attendees with its incessant chant before the Olympic torch is lit. And, you know, keep everyone safe, too.

READ MORE: Robot Station Security Guard Unveiled Ahead of 2020 Tokyo Olympics [Kyodo News]

More robot security guards: Robot Security Guards Are Just the Beginning

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Robot Security Guards Will Constantly Nag Spectators at the Tokyo Olympics

People Would Rather a Self-Driving Car Kill a Criminal Than a Dog

Snap Decisions

On first glance, a site that collects people’s opinions about whose life an autonomous car should favor doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. But look closer, and you’ll catch a glimpse of humanity’s dark side.

The Moral Machine is an online survey designed by MIT researchers to gauge how the public would want an autonomous car to behave in a scenario in which someone has to die. It asks questions like: “If an autonomous car has to choose between killing a man or a woman, who should it kill? What if the woman is elderly but the man is young?”

Essentially, it’s a 21st century update on the Trolley Problem, an ethical thought experiment no doubt permanently etched into the mind of anyone who’s seen the second season of “The Good Place.”

Ethical Dilemma

The MIT team launched the Moral Machine in 2016, and more than two million people from 233 countries participated in the survey — quite a significant sample size.

On Wednesday, the researchers published the results of the experiment in the journal Nature, and they really aren’t all that surprising: Respondents value the life of a baby over all others, with a female child, male child, and pregnant woman following closely behind. Yawn.

It’s when you look at the other end of the spectrum — the characters survey respondents were least likely to “save” — that you’ll see something startling: Survey respondents would rather the autonomous car kill a human criminal than a dog.

moral machine
Image Credit: MIT

Ugly Reflection

While the team designed the survey to help shape the future of autonomous vehicles, it’s hard not to focus on this troubling valuing of a dog’s life over that of any human, criminal or not. Does this tell us something important about how society views the criminal class? Reveal that we’re all monsters when hidden behind the internet’s cloak of anonymity? Confirm that we really like dogs?

The MIT team doesn’t address any of these questions in their paper, and really, we wouldn’t expect them to — it’s their job to report the survey results, not extrapolate some deeper meaning from them. But whether the Moral Machine informs the future of autonomous vehicles or not, it’s certainly held up a mirror to humanity’s values, and we do not like the reflection we see.

READ MORE: Driverless Cars Should Spare Young People Over Old in Unavoidable Accidents, Massive Survey Finds [Motherboard]

More on the Moral Machine: MIT’s “Moral Machine” Lets You Decide Who Lives & Dies in Self-Driving Car Crashes

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People Would Rather a Self-Driving Car Kill a Criminal Than a Dog

Scientists Say New Material Could Hold up an Actual Space Elevator

Space Elevator

It takes a lot of energy to put stuff in space. That’s why one longtime futurist dream is a “space elevator” — a long cable strung between a geostationary satellite and the Earth that astronauts could use like a dumbwaiter to haul stuff up into orbit.

The problem is that such a system would require an extraordinarily light, strong cable. Now, researchers from Beijing’s Tsinghua University say they’ve developed a carbon nanotube fiber so sturdy and lightweight that it could be used to build an actual space elevator.

Going Up

The researchers published their paper in May, but it’s now garnering the attention of their peers. Some believe the Tsinghua team’s material really could lead to the creation of an elevator that would make it cheaper to move astronauts and materials into space.

“This is a breakthrough,” colleague Wang Changqing, who studies space elevators at Northwestern Polytechnical University, told the South China Morning Post.

Huge If True

There are still countless galling technical problems that need to be overcome before a space elevator would start to look plausible. Wang pointed out that it’d require tens of thousands of kilometers of the new material, for instance, as well as a shield to protect it from space debris.

But the research brings us one step closer to what could be a true game changer: a vastly less expensive way to move people and spacecraft out of Earth’s gravity.

READ MORE: China Has Strongest Fibre That Can Haul 160 Elephants – and a Space Elevator? [South China Morning Post]

More on space elevators: Why Space Elevators Could Be the Future of Space Travel

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Scientists Say New Material Could Hold up an Actual Space Elevator

An AI Conference Refusing a Name Change Highlights a Tech Industry Problem

Name Game

There’s a prominent artificial intelligence conference that goes by the suggestive acronym NIPS, which stands for “Neural Information Processing Systems.”

After receiving complaints that the acronym was alienating to women, the conference’s leadership collected suggestions for a new name via an online poll, according to WIRED. But the conference announced Monday that it would be sticking with NIPS all the same.

Knock It Off

It’s convenient to imagine that this acronym just sort of emerged by coincidence, but let’s not indulge in that particular fantasy.

It’s more likely that tech geeks cackled maniacally when they came up with the acronym, and the refusal to do better even when people looking up the conference in good faith are bombarded with porn is a particularly telling failure of the AI research community.

Small Things Matter

This problem goes far beyond a silly name — women are severely underrepresented in technology research and even more so when it comes to artificial intelligence. And if human decency — comforting those who are regularly alienated by the powers that be — isn’t enough of a reason to challenge the sexist culture embedded in tech research, just think about what we miss out on.

True progress in artificial intelligence cannot happen without a broad range of diverse voices — voices that are silenced by “locker room talk” among an old boy’s club. Otherwise, our technological development will become just as stuck in place as our cultural development often seems to be.

READ MORE: AI RESEARCHERS FIGHT OVER FOUR LETTERS: NIPS [WIRED]

More on Silicon Valley sexism: The Tech Industry’s Gender Problem Isn’t Just Hurting Women

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An AI Conference Refusing a Name Change Highlights a Tech Industry Problem

Scientists Are Hopeful AI Could Help Predict Earthquakes

Quake Rate

Earlier this year, I interviewed U.S. Geological Survey geologist Annemarie Baltay for a story about why it’s incredibly difficult to predict earthquakes.

“We don’t use that ‘p word’ — ‘predict’ — at all,” she told me. “Earthquakes are chaotic. We don’t know when or where they’ll occur.”

Neural Earthwork

That could finally be starting to change, according to a fascinating feature in The New York Times.

By feeding seismic data into a neural network — a type of artificial intelligence that learns to recognize patterns by scrutinizing examples — researchers say they can now predict moments after a quake strikes how far its aftershocks will travel.

And eventually, some believe, they’ll be able to listen to signals from fault lines and predict when an earthquake will strike in the first place.

Future Vision

But like Baltay, some researchers aren’t convinced we’ll ever be able to predict earthquakes.University of Tokyo seismologist Robert Geller told the Times that until an algorithm actually predicts an upcoming quake, he’ll remain skeptical.

“There are no shortcuts,” he said. “If you cannot predict the future, then your hypothesis is wrong.”

READ MORE: A.I. Is Helping Scientist Predict When and Where the Next Big Earthquake Will Be [The New York Times]

More on earthquake AI: A New AI Detected 17 Times More Earthquakes Than Traditional Methods

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Scientists Are Hopeful AI Could Help Predict Earthquakes

These Bacteria Digest Food Waste Into Biodegradable Plastic

Factory Farm

Plastics have revolutionized manufacturing, but they’re still terrible for the environment.

Manufacturing plastics is an energy-intensive slog that ends in mountains of toxic industrial waste and greenhouse gas emissions. And then the plastic itself that we use ends up sitting in a garbage heap for thousands of years before it biodegrades.

Scientists have spent years investigating ways to manufacture plastics without ruining the planet, and a Toronto biotech startup called Genecis says it’s found a good answer: factories where vats of bacteria digest food waste and use it to form biodegradable plastic in their tiny microbial guts.

One-Two Punch

The plastic-pooping bacteria stand to clean up several kinds of pollution while churning out usable materials, according to Genecis.

That’s because the microbes feed on waste food or other organic materials — waste that CBC reported gives off 20 percent of Canada’s methane emissions as it sits in landfills.

Then What?

The plastic that the little buggers produce isn’t anything new. It’s called PHA and it’s used in anything that needs to biodegrade quickly, like those self-dissolving stitches. What’s new here is that food waste is much cheaper than the raw materials that usually go into plastics, leading Genecis to suspect it can make the same plastics for 40 percent less cost.

There are a lot of buzzworthy new alternative materials out there, but with a clear environmental and financial benefit, it’s possible these little bacteria factories might be here to stay.

READ MORE: Greener coffee pods? Bacteria help turn food waste into compostable plastic [CBC]

More on cleaning up plastics: The EU Just Voted to Completely ban Single-Use Plastics

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These Bacteria Digest Food Waste Into Biodegradable Plastic

You Can Now Preorder a $150,000 Hoverbike

Please, Santa?

It’s never too early to start writing your Christmas wish list, right? Because we know what’s now at the top of ours: a hoverbike.

We’ve had our eyes on Hoversurf’s Scorpion-3 since early last year — but now, the Russian drone start-up is accepting preorders on an updated version of the vehicle.

Flying Bike

The S3 2019 is part motorcycle and part quadcopter. According to the Hoversurf website, the battery-powered vehicle weighs 253 pounds and has a flight time of 10 to 25 minutes depending on operator weight. Its maximum legal speed is 60 mph — though as for how fast the craft can actually move, that’s unknown. Hoversurf also notes that the vehicle’s “safe flight altitude” is 16 feet, but again, we aren’t sure how high it can actually soar.

What we do know: The four blades that provide S3 with its lift spin at shin level, and while this certainly looks like it would be a safety hazard, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration approved the craft for legal use as an ultralight vehicle in September.

That means you can only operate an S3 for recreational or sports purposes — but you can’t cruise to work on your morning commute.

Plummeting Bank Account

You don’t need a pilot’s license to operate an S3, but you will need a decent amount of disposable income — the Star Wars-esque craft will set you back $150,000.

If that number doesn’t cause your eyes to cross, go ahead and slap down the $10,000 deposit needed to claim a spot in the reservation queue. You’ll then receive an email when it’s time to to place your order. You can expect to receive your S3 2019 two to six months after that, according to the company website.

That means there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be able to hover around your front yard this Christmas morning, but a 2019 jaunt is a genuine possibility.

READ MORE: For $150,000 You Can Now Order Your Own Hoverbike [New Atlas]

More on Hoversurf: Watch the World’s First Rideable Hoverbike in Flight

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You Can Now Preorder a $150,000 Hoverbike

FBI’s Tesla Criminal Probe Reportedly Centers on Model 3 Production

Ups and Downs

Can we please get off Mr. Musk’s Wild Ride now? We don’t know how much more of this Tesla rollercoaster we can take.

In 2018 alone, Elon Musk’s clean energy company has endured a faulty flufferbot, furious investors, and an SEC probe and settlement. But there was good news, too. Model 3 deliveries reportedly increased, and just this week, we found out that Tesla had a historic financial quarter, generating $312 million in profit.

And now we’re plummeting again.

Closing In

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is deepening a criminal probe into whether Tesla “misstated information about production of its Model 3 sedans and misled investors about the company’s business going back to early 2017.”

We’ve known about the FBI’s Tesla criminal probe since September 18, but this is the first report confirming that Model 3 production is at the center of the investigation.

According to the WSJ’s sources, FBI agents have been reaching out to former Tesla employees in recent weeks to ask if they’d be willing to testify in the criminal case, though no word yet on whether any have agreed.

Casual CEO

We might be having trouble keeping up with these twists and turns, but Musk seems to be taking the FBI’s Tesla criminal probe all in stride — he spent much of Friday afternoon joking around with his Twitter followers about dank memes.

Clearly he has the stomach for this, but it’d be hard to blame any Tesla investors for deciding they’d had enough.

READ MORE: Tesla Faces Deepening Criminal Probe Over Whether It Misstated Production Figures [The Wall Street Journal]

More on Tesla: Elon Musk Says Your Tesla Will Earn You Money While You Sleep

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FBI’s Tesla Criminal Probe Reportedly Centers on Model 3 Production

Zero Gravity Causes Worrisome Changes In Astronauts’ Brains

Danger, Will Robinson

As famous Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield demonstrated with his extraterrestrial sob session, fluids behave strangely in space.

And while microgravity makes for a great viral video, it also has terrifying medical implications that we absolutely need to sort out before we send people into space for the months or years necessary for deep space exploration.

Specifically, research published Thursday In the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that our brains undergo lasting changes after we spend enough time in space. According to the study, cerebrospinal fluid — which normally cushions our brain and spinal cord — behaves differently in zero gravity, causing it to pool around and squish our brains.

Mysterious Symptoms

The brains of the Russian cosmonauts who were studied in the experiment mostly bounced back upon returning to Earth.

But even seven months later, some abnormalities remained. According to National Geographic, the researchers suspect that high pressure  inside the cosmonauts’ skulls may have squeezed extra water into brain cells which later drained out en masse.

Now What?

So far, scientists don’t know whether or not this brain shrinkage is related to any sort of cognitive or other neurological symptoms — it might just be a weird quirk of microgravity.

But along with other space hazards like deadly radiation and squished eyeballs, it’s clear that we have a plethora of medical questions to answer before we set out to explore the stars.

READ MORE: Cosmonaut brains show space travel causes lasting changes [National Geographic]

More on space medicine: Traveling to Mars Will Blast Astronauts With Deadly Cosmic Radiation, new Data Shows

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Zero Gravity Causes Worrisome Changes In Astronauts’ Brains

We Aren’t Growing Enough Healthy Foods to Feed Everyone on Earth

Check Yourself

The agriculture industry needs to get its priorities straight.

According to a newly published study, the world food system is producing too many unhealthy foods and not enough healthy ones.

“We simply can’t all adopt a healthy diet under the current global agriculture system,” said study co-author Evan Fraser in a press release. “Results show that the global system currently overproduces grains, fats, and sugars, while production of fruits and vegetables and, to a smaller degree, protein is not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the current population.”

Serving Downsized

For their study, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the University of Guelph compared global agricultural production with consumption recommendations from Harvard University’s Healthy Eating Plate guide. Their findings were stark: The agriculture industry’s overall output of healthy foods does not match humanity’s needs.

Instead of the recommended eight servings of grains per person, it produces 12. And while nutritionists recommend we each consume 15 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, the industry produces just five. The mismatch continues for oils and fats (three servings instead of one), protein (three servings instead of five), and sugar (four servings when we don’t need any).

Overly Full Plate

The researchers don’t just point out the problem, though — they also calculated what it would take to address the lack of healthy foods while also helping the environment.

“For a growing population, our calculations suggest that the only way to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, save land, and reduce greenhouse gas emission is to consume and produce more fruits and vegetables as well as transition to diets higher in plant-based protein,” said Fraser.

A number of companies dedicated to making plant-based proteins mainstream are already gaining traction. But unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the agriculture industry will decide to prioritize growing fruits and veggies over less healthy options as long as people prefer having the latter on their plates.

READ MORE: Not Enough Fruits, Vegetables Grown to Feed the Planet, U of G Study Reveals [University of Guelph]

More on food scarcity: To Feed a Hungry Planet, We’re All Going to Need to Eat Less Meat

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We Aren’t Growing Enough Healthy Foods to Feed Everyone on Earth

Report Identifies China as the Source of Ozone-Destroying Emissions

Emissions Enigma

For years, a mystery puzzled environmental scientists. The world had banned the use of many ozone-depleting compounds in 2010. So why were global emission levels still so high?

The picture started to clear up in June. That’s when The New York Times published an investigation into the issue. China, the paper claimed, was to blame for these mystery emissions. Now it turns out the paper was probably right to point a finger.

Accident or Incident

In a paper published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, an international team of researchers confirms that eastern China is the source of at least half of the 40,000 tonnes of carbon tetrachloride emissions currently entering the atmosphere each year.

They figured this out using a combination of ground-based and airborne atmospheric concentration data from near the Korean peninsula. They also relied on two models that simulated how the gases would move through the atmosphere.

Though they were able to narrow down the source to China, the researchers weren’t able to say exactly who’s breaking the ban and whether they even know about the damage they’re doing.

Pinpoint

“Our work shows the location of carbon tetrachloride emissions,” said co-author Matt Rigby in a press release. “However, we don’t yet know the processes or industries that are responsible. This is important because we don’t know if it is being produced intentionally or inadvertently.”

If we can pinpoint the source of these emissions, we can start working on stopping them and healing our ozone. And given that we’ve gone nearly a decade with minimal progress on that front, there’s really no time to waste.

READ MORE: Location of Large ‘Mystery’ Source of Banned Ozone Depleting Substance Uncovered [University of Bristol]

More on carbon emissions: China Has (Probably) Been Pumping a Banned Gas Into the Atmosphere

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Report Identifies China as the Source of Ozone-Destroying Emissions

There’s No Way China’s Artificial Moon Will Work, Says Expert

Good Luck

On October 10, a Chinese organization called the Tian Fu New Area Science Society revealed plans to replace the streetlights in the city of Chengdu with a satellite designed to reflect sunlight toward the Earth’s surface at night.

But in a new interview with Astronomy, an associate professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Austin named Ryan Russel argued that based on what he’s read, the artificial moon plan would be impossible to implement.

Promised the Moon

Wu Chunfeng, the head of the Tian Fu New Area Science Society, told China Daily the artificial moon would orbit about 310 miles above Earth, delivering an expected brightness humans would perceive to be about one-fifth that of a typical streetlight.

The plan is to launch one artificial moon in 2020 and then three more in 2022 if the first works as hoped. Together, these satellites could illuminate an area of up to 4,000 square miles, Chunfeng claims.

But Russell is far from convinced.

“Their claim for 1 [low-earth orbit satellite] at [300 miles] must be a typo or misinformed spokesperson,” he told Astronomy. “The article I read implied you could hover a satellite over a particular city, which of course is not possible.”

Overkill Overhead

To keep the satellite in place over Chengdu, it would need to be about 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface, said Russel, and its reflective surface would need to be massive to reflect sunlight from that distance. At an altitude of just 300 miles, the satellite would quickly zip around the Earth, constantly illuminating new locations.

Even if the city could put the artificial moon plan into action, though, Russell isn’t convinced it should.

“It’s a very complicated solution that affects everyone to a simple problem that affects a few,” he told Astronomy. “It’s light pollution on steroids.”

Maybe Chengdu shouldn’t give up on its streetlights just yet.

READ MORE: Why China’s Artificial Moon Probably Won’t Work [Astronomy]

More on the artificial moon: A Chinese City Plans to Replace Its Streetlights With an Artificial Moon

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There’s No Way China’s Artificial Moon Will Work, Says Expert

Clean Coal Startup Turns Human Waste Into Earth-Friendly Fuel

Gold Nuggets

A company called Ingelia says it’s figured out a way to turn human waste — the solid kind — into a combustible material it’s calling biochar. And if Ingelia’s claims are accurate, biochar can be burned for fuel just like coalexcept with nearzero greenhouse gas emissions, according to Business Insider.

That’s because almost all of the pollutants and more harmful chemicals that would normally be given off while burning solid fuels is siphoned away into treatable liquid waste, leaving a dry, combustible rod of poop fuel.

“Clean Coal

Ingelia, which is currently working to strike a deal with Spanish waste management facilities, hopes to make enough biochar to replace 220 thousand tons of coal per year, corresponding to 500 thousand tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

But that’s by 2022, at which point we’ll have even less time to reach the urgent clean energy goals of that doomsday United Nations report. In an ideal world, we would have moved away from coal years ago. At least this gives us a viable alternative as we transition to other, renewable forms of electricity.

So while we can, in part, poop our way to a better world, biochar — and other new sewage-based energy sources — will only be one of many new world-saving sources of clean energy.

READ MORE: This Spanish company found a way to produce a fuel that emits no CO2 — and it’s made of sewage [Business Insider]

More on poop: Edible Tech is Finally Useful, is Here to Help you Poop

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Clean Coal Startup Turns Human Waste Into Earth-Friendly Fuel

Ford’s Self-Driving Cars Are About to Chauffeur Your Senator

Green-Light District

It doesn’t matter how advanced our self-driving cars get — if they aren’t allowed on roads, they aren’t going to save any lives.

The future of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the U.S. depends on how lawmakers in Washington D.C. choose to regulate the vehicles. But until now, AV testing has largely taken place far from the nation’s capital, mostly in California and Arizona.

Ford is about to change that. The company just announced plans to be the first automaker to test its self-driving cars in the Distinct of Columbia — and how lawmakers feel about those vehicles could influence future AV legislation.

Career Day

Sherif Marakby, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, announced the decision to begin testing in D.C. via a blog post last week. According to Marakby, Ford’s politician-friendly focus will be on figuring out how its AVs could promote job creation in the District.

To that end, Ford plans to assess how AVs could increase mobility in D.C., thereby helping residents get to jobs that might otherwise be outside their reach, as well as train residents for future positions as AV technicians or operators.

Up Close and Personal

Marakby notes that D.C. is a particularly suitable location for this testing because the District is usually bustling with activity. The population increases significantly during the day as commuters arrive from the suburbs for work, while millions of people flock to D.C. each year for conferences or tourism.

D.C. is also home to the people responsible for crafting and passing AV legislation. “[I]t’s important that lawmakers see self-driving vehicles with their own eyes as we keep pushing for legislation that governs their safe use across the country,” Marakby wrote.

Ford’s ultimate goal is to launch a commercial AV service in D.C. in 2021. With this testing, the company has the opportunity to directly influence the people who could help it reach that goal — or oppose it.

READ MORE: A Monumental Moment: Our Self-Driving Business Development Expands to Washington, D.C. [Medium]

More on AV legislation: U.S. Senators Reveal the Six Principles They’ll Use to Regulate Self-Driving Vehicles

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Ford’s Self-Driving Cars Are About to Chauffeur Your Senator


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