is interesting how periods of time, which, whilst we are living through
them, do not seem to have any outstanding features, should have such a
distinctive character when viewed in retrospect.
back at the 1980s is to look back to another era. In Britain, in those
years, Conservative politics were shaping the structure and ethic of
public life by design, and the New Age was in full flower.
as significantly large numbers of people opened up to ideas that were new
to them and discovered a different way of understanding reality,
against the backdrop provided by one of the meanest-spirited political
regimes we have ever had in this country, there was enormous expectation
are indications that the same pattern was in evidence in other parts of
the western world.
is not to view the 1980s as a halcyon period; if it was the Golden Age of
anything it was spiritual naivety and that polarity between the spiritual
and the everyday is still causing problems. Nor was enthusiasm for New Age
ideas free from the acquisitiveness that had the West as a whole in its
grip. But in all its aspects, positive and negative, it was different from
what we have now at the beginning of the 2000s, when we are in the shadow
of major global disruption and dramatic economic slow down.
In Britain, we also face social disintegration, the product of
strong individuality with nowhere to go but into alienation.
is now little in the way of expectation or optimism. Against this
backdrop, the development circles, the crystals, the little rituals, the
leisurely methods of self-discovery and creative expression, look very
fragile and self-indulgent. Yet
it is precisely at such times that we need to bring to full consciousness
and apply all those fashionable things, which we were spouting so freely
in the 1980s. We also have to decentralise in out thinking and get the
focus off ourselves. Through the New Age, spiritual ideas have met with
individuality. This is a blend, which produces self-importance.
need to align ourselves with like-minded people and to accept group
discipline is now very great indeed. In isolation, spiritually aware or
not, we are not useful to ourselves or to our planet.
Nor are we useful when we are sitting piously on the sidelines.
the 1980s New Age defined itself as other than materialistic. This dualism
between spiritual and material which was a feature of spirituality in the
Age of Pisces, encouraged a lot of drifting to the margins in order to
take on ‘spiritually correct’ work: healing, therapies, teaching
spiritual disciplines. Being able to work in these fields full time was
viewed as a mark of attainment. In the 1980 and 1990s the New Age was not
only acquisitive it also very status consciousness, and it was not great
reality, in Britain at least, many, many practitioners were simply
scratching a living and a lot of those practitioners and would-be
practitioners have now given up, disillusioned and in many cases, too old
if not too proud to get back into the job market. They have become a drain
our societies, far from its biggest drain admittedly, but a spiritually
aware person should not be any kind of a drain on his society.
not be squeamish about acknowledging this. The squeamishness of the
spiritually minded about money and material responsibility is one of the
first things that has to change if spirituality is going to be an
effective force in the 2000s.
live in complex societies and we use a range of services. If we use those
services we should not disdain to work in those sectors. This kind of
fastidiousness and snobbery, quite deservedly, gives spirituality a bad
name, and it has given New Agers a bad name amongst many people with a
greater sense of material responsibility.
creation of market places enclaves for the spiritually correct is also
undesirable from another standpoint: that of clearing the most refined,
spiritually aware people out of the mainstream and leaving the running of
our societies in the hands of those who may be entirely materialistic and
wholly bereft of any spiritual refinement.
know somebody - I expect we all do - not badly off, who in the mid 1990s
disappeared into a rather expensive community for two years in order to
find himself and who, when he came out expressed disgust, disillusionment
and righteous anger at the way the world was going. His anger was
inappropriate. What had he done to stop it?
belonged to the Piscean Age, and it was not self-discovery that
underpinned the monastic ideal but service to God in circumstances of
considerable material deprivation.
is the Age of Aquarius. We are part of our societies whether we like it or
not. This brings responsibilities. Our developing spiritually is not the
slightest use to us or to anyone else if we don’t make a contribution.
All it will do is take us further into separation and isolation. And
whether it is pride or fear that underpins the separation they are equally
unhelpful because separation is against the law of the soul.
activity is the only remedy for the kind of alienated individuality we are
experiencing in Britain now.
the upcoming series of articles called Releasing the Spirit we will be look at some of the attitudes and
values that will need to change if spiritually aware people are to become
effective in their societies.