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I Did It My Way? Individual Choice And Social Conformity In New Age Religion

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Chapter Summary

Subjectivity, intuition and feeling are presented as the best ways to gain knowledge, whereas the intellect plays a subordinate role. The ultimate goal of this subjective spirituality is also thoroughly individualistic: it is to transform our own selves. New Age concepts do not originate in the minds of free-floating, autonomous individuals, but are produced by historically situated people. Two arguments are particularly prominent. The first is historical, arguing that the New Age builds on well-defined pre-existing currents which strongly color the production, interpretation and acceptance of new religious elements. The second argument is anthropological, suggesting that at least some religious networks are sufficiently structured to allow newcomers to be gradually socialized into the locally accepted beliefs and discourses. There is another reason why individual choice often goes hand in hand with social conformity. Socialization works very well, because New Age religion in many ways follows cognitive "commonsense" pathways.

Keywords: New Age religion; new religious elements; social conformity; subjective spirituality



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