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The Origins Of ‘New Age’ Religion Between The Two World Wars

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Chapter Summary

There are cumulative grounds for locating the origins of ‘new age’ religion in the interwar period, and in the 1930s in particular, since we find here both a distinctive context and a distinctive discourse. This chapter maps some principal currents in the non-official religious formations of the period in which it then locates Alice Bailey’s authoritative discourse on the coming ‘new age’. The chapter argues that an increasingly self-conscious constituency of non-official religious practitioners formed the prime audience, by the 1930s, for Bailey’s modernist yet ambiguous utopian trope. In the 1930s, Europeans had barely recovered from the so-called ‘Great War’ of 1914–18, which cost Britain 800,000 lives, France more than a million and a half, and Germany nearly two million, before international conflict was again rearing its head. The chapter focuses on the related field of ‘occultism’, organised around the notion of ‘spiritual development’.

Keywords: Alice Bailey; Europeans; Germany; Great War; new age religion; occultism; Origins; Religion; spiritual development; World Wars



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