Everyday I come across people who are involved in some kind of spiritual exploration, including those of you who are part of this blog. I hear stories of connecting with spirit through meditation or mediumship, I hear tales of walking with nature, I hear descriptions of crystals carried in pockets and prayers said to angels.
But when I ask anyone to label what it is they are doing for me, they struggle. Some say they are 'workers for spirit', others describe themselves as 'happy generalists' content in exploring whatever works for them.
Ten or twenty years ago, these sorts of practices would most likely have come under the heading of 'New Age'. But nowadays New Age seems to carry a distinct stench of cannabis, caravans and, dare I say it, mothballs (metaphorically speaking, of course). It was something which implied 'leaving behind' much of what contemporary society stood for.
Yet the crystal carriers and meditation practitioners I am talking to today do not tell me they have left behind the trappings of modern life in this way, indeed quite the opposite, they often bring these spiritual tools and experiences right into their everyday lives. I myself carry crystals but remain quite happy in my 1930s semi in suburban England.
So does 'New Age' still serve as a useful label for alternative spiritual practices, or is it time to find a new name?
The New Agers heralded quite literally a New Age, one where we would be spiritually enlightened and at one with the earth; they drew on many traditions including Eastern philosophies, Paganism and Gaia theories. And many New Age camps, communities and individuals continue very much in this vein. But does this adequately describe what the people I am talking to are telling me about?
New Agers were on a crusading counter-cultural drive to change the world for the better. They used techniques, practices and everyday lifestyles which seemed unfamiliar and unusual to mainstream Western capitalist society. Perhaps it is the years of very visible 'New Agers' that now makes it more ‘normal’ to do things which were once considered ‘alternative’, such as meditation, Tai Chi, or crystal healing.
The New Age pioneers were the ones who stressed self-actualisation, recycling, animal rights and green consumerism. And these are now mainstream middle of the road middle-class values... So perhaps what I am exploring has been an unintentional spin-off from the original more purposeful counter-culture.
So what is the new name for this new age..? Answers and comments most welcome...