Starcat’s Corner: Paganism in the New Age

(This article was first published in the Spring 2009 edition of the EarthTides Pagan Network’s newsletter).

Recently I’ve been studying and working with the Law of Attraction (LOA). The concept was made popular by the 2006 book and documentary “The Secret.” LOA is taught in more depth by Abraham, a non-physical entity channeled by Esther Hicks, beginning in the 1980s. It was also explored in the Seth material, channeled by Jane Roberts, published from the 1960s through the 1980s. The basic idea of LOA is that we are each creating our own reality based on where we put our focus. The universe is made of energy, and each being’s perception and experience of it is unique.

Just reading the first paragraph of this article might make you squirm, or want to stop reading. “What’s the difference between a Pagan workshop and a New Age workshop? About $300,” goes a joke that’s been around for a while. I often hear (or read) Pagans disparaging New Age concepts and practices, and I wonder why that is.

As a person who is interested in consilience (the unity of knowledge, or in this case wisdom), I tend to see the commonalities among various philosophies and practices. Sure, every religion and form of shared spirituality has devotees who keep the teachings on a surface level and are most interested in being trendy. Yet it would seem that Pagans and so-called New Agers are natural allies. The Reclaiming salutation “Co-Creators of the Multiverse” evokes images of people who are conscious of our own divinity and our participation in the unfolding of life.

What do these two distinct movements have in common? We are the ones building the new paradigm, as the old models of our civilization and culture fall away. Through consciousness awareness, we are recreating the world as we work from the inside out to change ourselves and to release old patterns and blockages. We recognize that there is more to life than what we see with our five senses.

An issue some Pagans have with the New Age movement is that it focuses on self-development, perhaps to the exclusion of working toward environmental awareness and political justice. Yet what I am seeing in my contacts with others is an amazing ripple effect. As we become aware of our inner landscape, we look at our interactions with others and the Earth in a new light. Even if we look through the lens of one particular issue that calls to us, such as mindful parenting, we soon find that dedication to a spiritual practice opens our consciousness in many other areas.

For example, several months ago I joined an e-mail list called “Radical Unschooling and the Law of Attraction.” Here’s a description:

“Combining the philosophies of Radical Unschooling and the Law of Attraction is a progressive, revolutionary approach to parenting on the Leading Edge of Thought that we are honored to be pioneering. Radical Unschoolers choose to replace the cultural norm of using control, shame, coercion, rules and punishment with *Respect*, *Trust*, *Freedom* *Peace*, and *Joy* in our lives with our children and with others.”

Some of the list members are Pagan, while some are members of other religions, or simply seekers wanting to do things in a new way. What we have in common is that we are all working toward parenting with consciousness. That intention, in my experience with the group and my own practice, tends to expand outward into all other facets of one’s life.

Certainly, my own practice of LOA has a Pagan flavor. I include it as one of the tools I use on my path. The teachings I encounter, no matter the source, must resonate with me. This does require an ongoing commitment to self-exploration, something that most Pagans understand intuitively. We are drawn to this path because we want something more than following others’ dogma. In that regard, we are individual seekers who have much in common with our New Age friends, whether they are pursuing a secular path or are already part of a religion. We are each looking for wisdom that helps us to pursue our goals.

There are strong similarities in some of the methods we use to create change. A simple summary of the Law of Attraction says that your thoughts and feelings determine the reality of your life. If you consciously focus them towards what you desire, it will happen. Take a look at Aleister Crowley’s famous definition of magick:

“Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will.”

Our will is made up of our deep desires. By getting clear about what we truly want, and then focusing on it, we create change in ourselves and thus in the world around us.

Again, an objection I’ve heard is that people will begin to manifest things they want, like luxury cruises and SUVs, that aren’t good for the Earth. This is something I’ve been examining as part of my journey. One answer is that since everything is made of energy, whatever we want is available to us all the time. Abraham emphasizes that there is enough abundance for every being on this planet to have all that they wish. This can be hard to grasp, particularly when we observe the natural world being mistreated by our culture’s business practices.

What I’ve discovered is that when I look deep within myself, the things I truly wish to manifest are in concert with my deeply held values: an addition to my home that enables us to heat with solar energy, to travel the world in an eco-friendly way, a big organic garden, to write about things that I hope will help others on their paths. As a Pagan who strives to be in touch with myself and the world on many levels, my desires dovetail with the needs and wants of the Earth’s spirits and beings.

Another thing that Pagan and New Age practices have in common is self-determination. If a tool or ritual doesn’t work for you, there’s no authority telling you that you have to use it. We employ the techniques that work best for us because we understand that our path is uniquely our own. Again, there certainly exist gurus trying to get people to buy into their authority, but we’ve all heard of occasional Pagan covens with questionable ethics who teach in this way. In both cases, they are the exception.

My personal study of Paganism and New Age theories (as well as Eastern philosophies) finds commonalities in the ideas of personal responsibility and power from within. There is no one we can “blame” for our troubles or challenges. We are here to learn and grow, to help ourselves and others in ways that ring true for us.

As more and more people awaken to this way of living, we encounter resistance to this expansion. You can see it in politics and mainstream religions; it is easier to follow a predetermined path and leave the tough choices up to God, the priests, or the survival of the fittest. As human beings who have decided to move beyond the accepted answers and find out for ourselves how to live, I believe that Pagans and New Age practitioners have similar goals, and much to learn from each other.