What is New Age Spirituality? Your Guide to a Clear Definition

New Age spirituality is a modern spiritual movement that emerged in Western nations during the 1970s. It encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices that are generally united by a shared desire to achieve spiritual enlightenment, transformation, and a deeper connection with one’s inner self and the universe.

But beyond this broad overview, what exactly is New Age spirituality? And how is it defined?

Defining New Age Spirituality

New Age spirituality is fundamentally about seeking personal spiritual development, with an emphasis on individual religious experience over doctrine. In contrast to mainstream Western religions like Christianity, it does not follow a defined set of beliefs or worship of a divine being.

Some key principles at the heart of New Age spirituality include:

  • Pursuit of wellbeing and “wholeness” of body, mind and spirit
  • Belief in spiritual energies, supernatural abilities like ESP, and alternative explanations of physical phenomena
  • Value of intuition over rational, scientific thought
  • Emphasis of spiritual experiences over material possessions or status

New Age spirituality has been heavily influenced by Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. As such, concepts like karma, chakras, meditation, and reincarnation are foundational to many New Age belief systems.

But there is no universal doctrine, creed or code that all New Age spiritualities follow. Rather it is an eclectic blend of teachings drawn from around the world and across history, combined with a contemporary focus on discovering one’s authentic self.

Defining Features of New Age Spirituality

While not all New Age spiritualities contain every aspect, most share some key defining features:

  • Holistic health: This encompasses healing practices like homeopathy, herbalism, yoga, massage and acupuncture. The goal is to balance the body, mind and spirit.
  • Channeling: Attempting communication with spirits, angels or extraterrestrial beings to receive knowledge or guidance.
  • Astrology/Divination: New Age ideology values mystical practices like tarot, I-Ching, runes and astrology to gain self-understanding.
  • Alternative belief systems: This includes myriad metaphysical concepts outside mainstream science – crystal healing, auras, quantum mysticism and the potential of psychic abilities.
  • Eclectic mixing of religious/spiritual teachings: New Age spirituality freely borrows concepts, symbols and rituals from major and minor world religions, mythology and indigenous traditions.
  • Focus on inner divinity/self-spirituality: The core pursuit is of self-empowerment and unlocking one’s highest human potential to become aligned with the divine inner self.

History and Origins

The foundation of New Age spirituality emerged through a confluence of social influences taking place in the West by the late 1960s. This included:

  • Growing popularity of Eastern religions and meditative practices among Westerners
  • Rise of the modern environmental movement
  • Anti-materialist ideals of hippie subculture
  • Advances in physics leading more mainstream acceptance of quantum mechanics principles
  • Increased fascination with paranormal phenomena

The actual term “New Age” came into use in the early 1970s. It was widely propagated by the 1987 publication of Marilyn Ferguson’s book “The Aquarian Conspiracy”. This encouraged personal and social transformation based on radically spiritual ideals for the coming “Age of Aquarius”. Astrologically, this age is defined as an era of enlightenment, humanitarianism and quantum shifts in human consciousness.

Key Influences

Specific spiritual teachers, texts and movements that shaped New Age thought include:

  • Helena Blavatsky and Theosophy
  • Edgar Cayce and Channeling/Ascensionism
  • Alice Bailey and Ascended Masters/Lightwork Teachings
  • George Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way
  • Human Potential Movement
  • Esalen Institute
  • Findhorn Foundation
  • The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
  • Establishment of the New Age Journal

Core concepts around life as spiritual journey, power of intuition/imagination, principle of cause-and-effect and practices of meditation have roots in these seminal influences.

Core Beliefs and Practices

It’s challenging to pin down a definitive set of New Age beliefs due to the diversity of teachings. But several foundational premises are near-universal:

  • All lifeforms have spirit/consciousness
  • Everything is energetically connected
  • Reality is fundamentally spiritual, not materialist
  • Consciousness evolves to awareness of its divine nature
  • Spiritual growth involves cycles of reincarnation
  • Personal experiences, intuition and emotion have greater epistemic authority than rationality or empirical facts

These metaphysical assumptions translate to core practices like:

  • Meditation: For self-reflection, stress reduction and tapping universal energies/consciousness.
  • Visualization: Harnessing mental focus and inner vision to manifest goals and heighten intuition.
  • Crystal Healing: Using gemstones and minerals to balance spiritual energies in the body.
  • Yoga/Tai Chi: Asanas, pranayama breathing and body movement arts develop and unite body, mind and spirit.
  • Pilgrimage: Seeking spiritual transformation by traveling to sites with mystical significance like Sedona, Machu Picchu or the Ganges.

New Age workshops, retreats and books also provide guidance on practices like chakra clearing, past life regression, aura readings, shamanic journeying and mediumship training.

Key Concepts

Undergirding these activities are foundational New Age concepts like:

  • Humanity’s Divine Nature: All people have seed of the divine within and potential for godlike understanding, mystical abilities, even immortality.
  • Monism/Oneness: Everything that exists – all matter, energies and consciousness – are interconnected as One universal Being/Source.
  • The Higher Self: This immortal spark of divinity exists beyond one’s ego. Realizing unity with Higher Self is goal of spiritual evolution.
  • Co-creation with Universe: Like a genie, the universe can manifest one’s desires. New Age practices develop skill in projecting beliefs/intentions to shape existence.
  • Multiple Spiritual Realms: Reality encompasses many subtle planes and dimensions inhabited by angels, spirits, deities which can interact with gifted living people.

Comparison to Traditional Religions

New Age spirituality departs from conventional religious models of worshiping a supreme being, obedience to divine revelations, or adherence to fixed ceremonies and moral codes.

In contrast, it champions individual authority, mystical self-empowerment and the ethos that one’s personal spiritual journey can unfold limitlessly. Spiritual truths are relative, subjective and rooted in lived experience – not theological canons or scriptures.

Differences from mainstream Western faiths include:

  • No central doctrine, creed or institutes
  • No recognized spiritual leaders/hierarchy
  • No predefined pathway or end goal
  • No specific code of values/morals
  • Pick-and-mix adaptability – each person assembles their own beliefs

New Age teachers even describe achieving Godlike powers through spiritual evolution. This contradicts traditional religious teachings about people’s relationship to the Divine as comparatively inferior, imperfect or steeped in inherited sinfulness.

Such individualistic emphasis can also foster isolation over community. And the smorgasbord approach tends to lack a coherent ethical framework for decision making beyond self-gratification.

But a common thread between New Age spirituality and faiths like Buddhism or mystical interpretations of Christianity is the ultimate goal of unity with the Absolute/Source — a pure, blissful awareness beyond egoic selfhood.


Today over 40% of Americans identify with some New Age beliefs. But given such fluidity and decentralization, more specific dimensions of New Age spirituality include:

  • New Age Churches: Hold regular services focused on personal transformation through energy healing, trance channeling, etc. May also incorporate Judao-Christian symbolism.
  • Earth-Centered Groups: Celebrate spiritual dimensions of nature – moon rituals, solar cycles, crop circle pilgrimages, back-to-the-land movements.
  • Esoteric Communities: Schools of thought focused on inner Light and Sound, transcendental meditation, metaphysical arts like alchemy or magic.
  • Therapy/Coaching Hybrids: Merge transpersonal psychology, holistic wellbeing, spiritual counsel and concepts like rapport with angelic guides.
  • New Age Culture: Manifests in media like Hay House publishing, Spirituality & Health magazine, and festivals like Burning Man or Bhaktifest that blend carnival with spiritual questing.
  • Integrative Approaches: Seek alignment between science, world religions and mystical traditions as glimpsing the same perennial wisdom.

This diversity reflects how the decentralized and adaptable nature of New Age permits nearly infinite expressions of the concept.

At its heart, New Age spirituality refers to a modern movement focused on attaining inner peace and cosmic oneness by embracing mystical beliefs and practices from around the globe. It coalesced in the West during the cultural upheaval of the 1960s and 70s.

Core focuses like holistic living, metaphysical healing arts, self-spirituality and appropriating teachings from religious traditions remain touchstones of the movement today. But there is no overarching central text, prophet or shared practices.

This enables nearly endless interpretations of New Age to suit individual needs or insights gleaned from personal revelations. Yet it can also result in aimlessness without ethical moorings.

In the end, the incredible breadth of New Age spirituality expresses its defining drive – to transcend earthly limits and societal boundaries in seeking mystical truths that resonate with one’s inner being.