A Community of Mystics: A New Zealand New Agers' Identity, Relationship with the Community and Connection with the Divine
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The 'New Age' encompasses many spiritualities, philosophies and alternative religions, such as Spiritualism, Wicca, Paganism and Theosophy, to name a few. Its cultural and ancestral threads, prior to the emergence of the contemporary New Age Movement in the early 1970s, is acknowledged by examining some prominent groups and individuals throughout history. Many comments on the New Age Movement, in the 1970s, 80s and 90s were dismissive. Through a survey done in 2007 amongst New Agers, for this thesis, those early judgements are examined to determine their relationship to the New Zealand experience. There was found to be divergence from international analysis where New Agers' age was concerned, their presumed connection to the 1960s counterculture, the assumptions that the New Age Movement is exclusively white, that science is a necessary part of belief and that New Age beliefs exist in opposition to cummunity needs. The focus is on the New Agers' within community, not their separation from it, for separation is a claim some overseas academics promoted as proof that the New Age is anti-community because of its individualism in belief seeking. Through this thesis the New Zealand New Ager is placed in relationship to the global New Age Movement by an academic who is 'of' the movement, not an academic 'outside looking in'. The experience of belief is looked at through the survey participants' eyes with the aim of claiming those experiences as 'mysticism'. This is approached by examining their 'contact' with the Divine/Godhead,through descriptions of altered/abstract realities. Any exclusivity the major religions have on mysticism is essentially 'removed' and given to the community as a concept attainable by those outside 'religion'; for example, the New Age Movement. The New Ager is seen both in the everydaty reality helping to create community, and although it is impossible to prove/examine coherantly, possibly in an altered/abstract reality/realities.