The Danger of the New Age

We were living in an old cottage in Dartmouth, in southern England, when Ed received a phone call from a woman in Australia who wanted to contact Yoko Ono. We had been featured in a magazine there and the woman had read that Yoko was in a book we wrote. She wanted Yoko’s phone number so Ed asked her why? She wouldn’t tell him until he said, “How can I give you a contact for Yoko if I don’t know why you need it?” She reluctantly replied, “OK, I am channeling John Lennon and he has an urgent message for Yoko.” “In that case,” Ed innocently responded, “why not ask John for her number?” At this the woman became enraged and hung up.

This phone call was a great example of the confusion surrounding what is known as the new age, where people believe they have stumbled upon, envisioned, and discovered the miraculous. The intention is often pure and meaningful but can also be misleading. It can also be mercenary.

We were teaching in Plymouth England when a participant, Christine, told us that Deepak Chopra had renounced the world and was healing people at the local Body and Soul center. We were surprised as we had met Deepak through a mutual friend and we had written a book he contributed to. It didn’t sound right to us, so we decided to go to the center. There we found an Indian man calling himself Deepak Chopra but who, despite knowing all of Deepak’s work, clearly wasn’t him. The misguided belief that he was the real Deepak Chopra had led people to stay up all night listening to him talk, to spontaneous healings, and to plenty of money flowing his way. Later that evening Deb called the center’s owner to confirm that she knew he was not the real Deepak. It took over an hour to convince her. By the next morning the man was gone, as were the healings. Once the belief was broken, so was the transformation.

We were recently asked to give a talk on the theme of The Dawn of the New Age. Although we agreed to do this, it was with some reservation as we are not sure there really is a new age. Especially as the request came soon after we had returned from Jerusalem, where we had been taken to meet the Bedouins camping on the hills outside the city.

It was hard for us to find a dawn of the new age there, to find any sense of a new awakening, amidst abject poverty, ramshackle huts and a sea of mud. So it made us ask, where is the new age? What do we mean by this? Is it experienced only by the privileged few, those of us who live with heating and electricity and enough food, who can afford to think beyond ourselves?

The new age is certainly not new. Awakening to deeper levels of awareness has been with us since humans began seeking a spiritual purpose to life. There is no doubt that in the west there has been a tremendous increase in those who are seeking, opening their hearts and discovering a more joyful and enriching way of being. However, does this have any meaning at all if we do not reach out to help those around us, if we do not extend beyond ourselves to those who are in need, unable to fend for themselves, or who are lost and displaced?

If there is a new age dawning, we pray it is one of compassion and service. That we are able to put our own needs aside and instead enable others to live with greater dignity. We do not have to go anywhere to do this as our own streets are littered with people living in the shade. May we assist each other to find our rightful place in the sun.