This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1991, Volume 8, Number 1, pages 86. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.
Book Review – The New Age Rage
Karen Hoyt and the Spiritual Counterfeits Project. Fleming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan, NJ, 1987, 263 pages.
Karen Hoyt, executive director of Spiritual Counterfeits Project, a Christian nonprofit corporation, has an M.A. in clinical psychology and works as a therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has, along with several contributors who are extremely well-versed in the “new age movement,” written a book that does an outstanding job of exploring the impact of that movement.
The New Age Rage traces the development of the various philosophies and doctrines of the new age’s historical predecessors and attempts to catalogue the good (true) and the bad (false) doctrines of the “movement.” Some readers might be disconcerted by the authors’ listing of areas about which Christians and members of new age groups can or should be in agreement. Most readers familiar with Judeo-Christian philosophies and the processes of the East, however, know that new age groups borrow heavily from both in order to make their philosophies saleable and palatable.
Readers will find an overview of most new age groups sufficient to aid them in making knowledgeable decisions about the extent of their affiliation or lack thereof. While this reviewer is not suggesting that the authors’ total answer to the new age movement is simply being “born again,” the book is not replete with instruction for those adversely affected by new age groups if they are not ready to be “born again.”
For the reader interested in understanding the nature and quality of the new age movement the book is almost encyclopedic. The contributors have more than done their homework and their input provides a simplified (not simplistic) overview of the how, why, and when of new age growth. Among the new age groups, there is something for every appetite: personal responsibility or lack of it; world conspiracy to explain away individual failure; reincarnation for today’s failure (to have another chance in another life); spirits who guide and those who channel, and so on, ad infinitum.
Regardless of the reader’s religious orientation, the book is eminently readable and well-organized. In contrast to some new age psychobabble, these authors straightforwardly analyze new age theory and beliefs and compare them to more traditional belief systems. Considering the religious orientation of the author and her contributors from the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, one might expect a lack of objectivity; however, the reader will be pleased at the almost total avoidance by the authors of partiality and/or subjectivity.
The authors are astute enough to point out that in most new age activities there is some good to be gained, while participants must maintain their vigilance and decide for themselves the extent of affiliation.
It is possible that the authors make the new age movement’s philosophies seem too benign and harmless. The unspoken suggestion is that affiliation with a new age group can be voided or reversed by a little contact with the teachings of Jesus or some “born again” contact. While not every book should include a chapter on the logical nexus between involvement in the new age movement and the transition to cultic groups and the problems to be encountered there, this particular book might be enhanced by such a chapter. Just as some “social” drug users venture a step too far, so do some new-age-movement dabblers.
Finally, the book reads well. And, with a little work on your part, you can become the center of attention if you memorize and then mention the founder of each “movement” when the subject comes up, as it invariably does, at weekend cocktail parties. Most important, the book is informative.
Lawrence Levy, Esq.
Sherman Oaks, California
Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1, 1991