Another scholarly interpretation of the New Age sees it as another form of Romanticism. The German scholar Peter Kratz makes this claim in his book Die Gotter des New Age.(1) Romanticism was an American and European movement that flourished from approximately 1790 to 1850. Seeing the New Age as a return of Romanticism captures an important part of the movement – especially if one believes the media’s portrayal and defines the New Age as people only interested in crystals and channeling. Like the Romantics, many New Agers emphasize myths, feelings, dreams, supernatural beings, mystical experiences and the unconscious.
The New Age movement does have many connections to Romanticism. Nevertheless, many qualities emphasized by New Agers reveal that the movement is more than merely a rebirth or repetition of Romanticism. For example, the New Age movement is often characterized as Yuppie spirituality because many people in it are pre-occupied with self-improvement projects that will lead them to financial success. The Romantics, on the other hand, despised material success. They bequeathed to us the Romantic image of the artist starving in his garret; Romanticism also inspired Thoreau to leave civilization to live near Walden Pond. Starving in a garret or living near Walden Pond is considerably different from going to a New Age weekend workshop to learn how to become wealthy. On the other hand, Enlightenment figures such as Ben Franklin encouraged people to become rich, and they even gave people tips on how to do it, and this points out the similarity of the New Age and the Enlightenment.
Moreover, the many infomercials telling us that we can all be as successful as the psychologist Tony Robbins reveal another essential difference between the New Agers and the Romantics. Like many New Age teachers, Robbins claims to teach a method or technique that everyone can do, and thus be as successful as him. In this way, the New Age movement shares the Enlightenment belief in human equality and systematic techniques. On the other hand, the Romantics claimed there were only a few inspired geniuses who were inherently greater than the common people. In this way, the New Age movement shares the Enlightenment tendency to emphasize human equality and systematic techniques.
The respect for worldly success, equality and technique are only some of the values the New Age shares with the Enlightenment. One cannot understand the New Age movement merely in terms of Romanticism, one also has to understand the New Age’s relationship to the Enlightenment.
My name is Joseph Waligore. I currently have a part-time job teaching philosophy and religious studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. More information about me can be found at my MySpace profile or my Facebook profile.
This website is one of four websites I have. At makingyourconnections.com I have a posted a significant portion of a self-help book I am currently writing. This book helps people succeed in the world by making their connections, the special people in their lives. Another website, www.followingtheflow.com is for spiritually oriented people and discusses very similar ideas from a more spiritually oriented perspective. Another one, www.josephwaligore.com is for academically or intellectually oriented people. It has my writings about spiritual philosophies such as Stoicism, Socrates, the Deists, the Enlightenment period, and the rise of modern science.
There is a Facebook group called Flowing. People interested in meeting other people who are interested in these ideas and/or participating in discussions about these ideas are invited to join the group.
Many people reach this site through keyword advertisements. It might be of interest that Joseph got the money for these ads through his daytrading profits.
(1) Peter Kratz, Die Gotter des New Age (Berlin: Elefantin Press, 1994), pp. 1-39.