The New Age Society of Solitaire, Namibia
© 2003 Joseph George Caldwell. All rights reserved. Posted at Internet web sites http://www.foundation.bw and http://www.foundationwebsite.org . May be copied or reposted for non-commercial use, with attribution. (6 June 2003)
Throughout the ages, there has always been a segment of the human population that has been concerned with the philosophy of knowledge: with an understanding of the nature of existence or reality, and establishing what we can know (i.e., the “truth”). The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge is called epistemology. The branch of philosophy that is concerned with understanding the nature of reality is metaphysics. The term metaphysics is all-inclusive, and there are many other more specific names that have been associated with these endeavors to understand the universe, such as spiritual philosophy, spiritualism, spiritual science, mysticism, occultism, occult science, Initiatic science, the supernatural, the paranormal, and esoterica. The terms spiritualism and mysticism generally refer to experiences of feeling, as in communion with God. The term occultism generally refers to knowing (extrasensory perception) and doing (psychokinesis) beyond the established realm of human experience (i.e., the physical, observable world). Terms referring to academic study include metaphysics, psychic research, and parapsychology.
Throughout history, many organizations have focussed on various aspects of metaphysics, including all religions, their mystic “offshoots” such as (Hebrew) Cabalism, (Christian) Gnosticism, (Islamic) Sufism, (Hindu) Vedanta, Zen Buddhism, Chinese Taoism, American and African Shamanism, and a wide variety of other spiritual philosophies such as Theosophy and Anthroposophy.
In recent years, there has been an explosion of interest and activity in metaphysics, and the most common names applied to this new and widespread interest are New Age and New Spiritualism. New Age activities include a wide range of topics and descriptors, including meditation, yoga, faith healing, “alternative medicine,” channelling, Akashic reading, automatic writing, shamanism, new physics, deep metaphysics, quantum theory, extrasensory perception, psychic phenomena (psi), prophecy, dreams and visions, hypnosis, reincarnation/regression, out-of-body and near-death experiences, and astral projection, just to name a few.
In New Age activities, the emphasis is on personal (direct) spiritual development and experiences, on personal exploration and discovery, and on personal freedom. Because of the emphasis on freedom and exploration, New Age activities are not associated with established religions, which require acceptance of a particular dogma (authoritative doctrine relating to items of belief or faith), moral code, and practices.
The number of people interested in New Age concepts is so large that the topic area is often referred to now as the “New Age Movement.” The use of the term “movement” to describe people interested in New Age concepts is misleading, however, because the people interested in New Age concepts are definitely not an organized group of people with similar beliefs, interests, or goals – at the present time, the so-called New Age Movement is not a movement at all (i.e., it is not an organized effort by supporters of a common goal). There are, to be sure, many small groups of people tied together with common New Age interests, but the New Age Movement as a whole is not formally organized into a single or even a number of large organizations. The New Age Movement is defined by a body of interests, not by membership in particular organizations.
The term “New Ager” is used to refer to a person interested in any of the New Age topics. Use of the term does not imply that the individual is interested in the whole spectrum of New Age topics. For example, a person may be interested in faith healing and little else of the New Age corpus; many people meditate as a form of relaxation, and have no interest in any other New Age activity.
The New Age Spirituality web site (http://www.religioustolerance.org/newage.htm ) presents a description of the New Age Movement. “The New Age Movement is in a class by itself. Unlike most formal religions, it has no holy text, central organizatioin, membership, formal clergy, geographic center, dogma, creed, etc…. The New Age is in fact a free-flowing spiritual movement; a network of believers and practitioners who share somewhat similar beliefs and practices, which they add on to whichever formal religion they follow. Their book publishers take the placed of a central organization; seminars, conventions, books and informal groups take the place of sermons and religious services. Quoting John Naisbitt (Megatrends 2000), ‘In turbulent times, in times of great change, people head for the two extremes: fundamentalism and personal, spiritual experience…With no membership lists or even a coherent philosophy or dogma, it is difficult to define or measure the unorganised New Age movement.’ …A longitudinal study from 1991 to 1995 shows that New Agers represent a steady 20% of the population, and are consistently the third largest religious group.” On the other hand, most people do not regard New Age as a religion at all. “The Canadian Census (1991) recorded only 1,200 people (0.005 of the total Canadian population) who identify their religion as being New Age. Many people identify with Christianity and other religions, but incorporate many New Age concepts into their faith.”
The Salem New Age Center (http://www.salemctr.com/newage.html ) presents a list of beliefs that some New Age individuals may have in common:
Many New Agers believe that as the world enters the Age of Aquarius, a New World Order will be established. This New Age will be a utopia in which there is a single world government with an end to war, poverty, disease, pollution and environmental destruction. Racial, religious and gender discrimination will also end, and every individual will have expanded opportunity for personal and spiritual development. Some see an end also to tribalism and nationalism, with a shift to a world community, while others see a return to tribal culture.
Prior to the nineteenth century, metaphysical (spiritual, mystical, occult) knowledge was not widely available (the term “occult” may refer to the supernatural, but its basic definition is “hidden”), and possessors of it were generally referred to as “initiates” (which means “one who has attained knowledge in a particular field”) or “adepts.” This knowledge was passed on from one individual to another (e.g., from a tribal shaman to a younger adept member of the tribe) or preserved / maintained by secret societies or “orders.” In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were relatively few books on these topics. Well-known authors on the subject include Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Annie Besant, Alice Bailey, and Rudolf Steiner. In the latter part of the twentieth century, the number of authors writing on these topics has mushroomed, with thousands of books now available in local bookstores. It is the recent (last two decades) publications on these topics that are generally referred to as “New Age” or “New Spiritualism” (i.e., the descriptor “new” refers generally to publication in the last 20-30 years).
The areas of concern of the New Age writers may be classified into two main categories: (1) those dealing with intrapersonal development or exploration, such as yoga, health / healing, meditation, hypnotism, past-life regression, astral projection, and psychic phenomena; and (2) those dealing with extrapersonal social activities and issues, such as sexual freedom, morality / casuistry, healing, prophecy, government / society / politics, and the relationship of man to nature. Books dealing with personal development (inner peace, discipline, health and healing) include Deepak Chopra’s books (e.g., How to Know God, Perfect Health), The Foundation for Inner Peace’s (Helen Schucman’s) A Course in Miracles, Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life, and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Death Is of Vital Importance. New Age books dealing with “philosophies of freedom” (moral relativism, humanism) include Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God series and David Icke’s I Am Me, I Am Free.
In the past several decades, it has become increasingly obvious that mankind’s large numbers and industrial activity are destroying the biosphere and causing the extinction of tens of thousands of species every year. As more and more people are becoming sensitised to this planetary crisis, the number and variety of New Age books on political and environmental topics has increased substantially. New Age books that deal with environmental and political issues include Thom Hartmann’s The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, Barbara Marx Hubbard’s Conscious Evolution, and Walsch’s The New Revelations.
It is very evident that traditional social, political and religious organizations have no interest in addressing or ability to solve the planet’s current environmental catastrophe. The cause of the problem is mankind’s large numbers and industrial activity. The only solution to the problem is to dramatically reduce the amount of industrial activity on the planet, but no world leaders are calling for a reduction in industrial production. Quite the contrary, all world leaders are calling for more industrial production, both in gross amount and per capita. Similarly, no social and religious organization is willing to take a stand to immediately reduce industrial activity worldwide. Human life is viewed as sacred, and valued above all other forms of life. No tradeoffs are allowed between human lives and the lives of other species. So far as major organized religions are concerned, the more people, the better, no matter how much human misery or other-species destruction results. The human species has a God-given mandate to fill the Earth, subdue all other creatures, and use them (control, kill, destroy, consume, exploit, exterminate) for its own benefit. Human “rights” take precedence over the “rights” of all other species. Many religions accept that apocalyptic “End Times” will occur, that this is destined to happen, and that “good” people will be “saved” from the destroyed planet. Social organizations almost invariably act in ways that increase the number of human beings on the planet, no matter what destruction is caused to the environment or to other species.
The only significant group of people who are genuinely concerned with bringing about world peace and harmony with nature, and have available the means for accomplishing these goals, are New Agers. This general statement does not, of course, include or apply to all New Agers. Some are interested solely in personal development, and have little interest in nature, or in other people, or in global concerns. Others are in to magic or witchcraft, and are focussed on control of others or material gain. But a large and growing number of New Agers is becoming increasingly concerned with the human misery and destruction of nature that is being caused by mankind’s large numbers and industrial activity. This interest – manifested in respect for fellow human beings and for all life – is not new to humankind. It can be traced back to the earliest communities of mankind, including virtually all “primitive” tribal peoples (Older Cultures, in the terminology of Thom Hartmann). It has been a significant aspect of spiritualism throughout the ages, as reflected in animism and shamanism, and includes more recent philosophical views such as those of Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, Rudolf Steiner, and Mikhael Aivanhov (Synarchy, Anthroposophy, Brotherhood).
This article has been written to encourage and assist the development and activities of New Age groups which are concerned with becoming actively involved in solving the world’s environmental and spiritual crisis. It presents a prototype for a local-level New Age Society. This prototype (exemplar, archetype) may be used as a guide for setting up and operating a small organization of people who are interested in exploring New Age concepts. Although the motivation for presenting this prototype is to assist and promote solution of the world’s environmental and spiritual crisis, it is assumed that the group will have interest in both intrapersonal and interpersonal aspects of New Age concepts, and both aspects are included.
It is assumed that the local-level group will adopt a name that reflects its geographic location, such as The New Age Society of New Haven, or The New Age Society of Jackson College. Or, if you wish, you may simply use the “default” name of The New Age Society of Solitaire, Namibia. Questions may be addressed to The New Age Society of Solitaire, Namibia, in care of firstname.lastname@example.org . The New Age Society of Solitaire does not maintain lists of members of any other local group. The interest and intent of The New Age Society of Solitaire is to bring into being as many local New Age Societies as possible, with the primary objective of promoting the solution of the world’s environmental and spiritual crisis. That is its sole objective. It does not seek any form of financial contribution from any other local Society or members of other Societies.
As noted, the body of New Age material is very large and diverse, and it is expected that each local Society will have primary interests in a restricted set of New Age activities, which will no doubt involve topics additional to the world’s environmental crisis. While the exemplar Charter presented below may mention a large variety of subjects, this does not imply that a local Society would engage in all or even many of them. It is expected that a new Society would select a sampling of recent material as a starting point for the organization’s activities. As time goes by, the group will no doubt identify particular areas of interest that it will pursue more intensely.
Statement of Purpose. This document is the Charter for the organization calling itself The New Age Society of Solitaire, Namibia (“The Society”). This Charter specifies the purposes, principles, functions, and organization of The Society.
Scope and Limitations: General. The purpose of The Society is to promote the spiritual and cultural development of its members, and to promote solution of the world’s environmental crisis. To this end, The Society will sponsor and promote activities associated with the broad range of New Age or New Spiritualism activities.
The Society will accept as members individuals (adults) who subscribe to the stated purpose, will actively participate in the activities of The Society, and agree to abide by the terms of this Charter and any By-Laws that may be adopted by The Society.
The Society and all members engaging in its activities or on its behalf will obey all laws and regulations of the jurisdiction in which it is located. The Society will not engage in commercial or professional activities for pay or profit. It may collect fees to cover costs of operation and activities. It is a fraternal organization that exists solely for the entertainment, gratification, and personal fulfilment of its members.
Scope and Limitations: Endorsement of Health, Medical or Other Lifestyle Practices. The Society does not practice or prescribe medicine, or endorse or suggest health regimens. It may discuss and examine various health or lifestyle topics, such as meditation, healing, yoga, autosuggestion, sexual practices, and diet, but all decisions concerning the use or non-use of any of these or other practices, procedures, or regimens by a member are solely and strictly made by the member himself, under no pressure or endorsement or even suggestion that it be employed or adopted, on the part of The Society.
Scope and Limitations: Political Status. The purpose of The Society is education, enlightenment, and enjoyment for its members, not social and political action. Any social or political actions taken by its members are outside of its scope, interest and involvement. The Society does not have a political or social agenda, and does not support or oppose political parties or candidates. Whatever political or social goals it has are concerned with a hypothetical post-industrial world, not with any existing national or international organization or structure. The Society is a fraternal organization interested in exploring philosophical, spiritual and cultural issues and concepts, not a political or social advocacy group. It does not engage in political action, e.g., such as an attempt to found a particular system of planetary management.
Scope and Limitations: Out-of-Scope Practices. Although The Society may discuss any topic, there are a number of practices in which it does not engage. The Society does not engage or sanction the involvement in practices that may be generally described as “black magic” or “Satanism,” such as casting of spells or hexes intended to control or harm any living thing. It does not engage in witchcraft or wizardry. It does not practice, endorse, or oppose any established religion. It does not engage in hypnotism, Ouija, or other practices that do not involve the active, conscious mind. It engages only in positive and peaceful activities that are intended to promote the health, well-being and happiness of its members and the biosphere. Any participation by members in any activities outside of The Society’s scope (e.g., practice of an established religion) is pursued independently of The Society.
Scope and Limitations: Religious Status. The Society is not a formal religion, since it espouses no dogma, moral code, particular spiritual philosophy, or religious practice (e.g., liturgy, rituals). Its purpose is to promote education and understanding concerning New Age concepts in general and the world’s environmental crisis in particular, not to promote acceptance or belief in any particular religious dogma or creed. Whatever religious beliefs or practices a member may accept or engage in are entirely up to him. The Society is a vehicle for awareness and understanding of metaphysical matters, not for action. While The Society is interested in discussing spiritual concepts in general, this is not in the context of any particular organized religion or spiritual philosophy. The Society takes no position on the validity or worth of any organized religion, and does not encourage or discourage any member in any way in practicing any religion of his choice. Members are free to accept and practice whatever organized religion they choose (or none at all).
Organization; Appointment and Removal of Moderator. The Society begins its existence with an organizational meeting of individuals who wish to found a local branch or chapter. All present individuals who agree to adopt this Charter become founding members of The Society. These members shall then elect, by consensus, a Moderator (or Facilitator, or Coordinator), who, upon acceptance of this position, will lead the activities of The Society and represent it. It is the responsibility of the Moderator to coordinate The Society’s activities and to maintain a current copy of The Society’s Charter for viewing or copying by members. The Moderator may request other members to participate in the operation of The Society. Members requested to participate may choose not to do so. The Moderator may resign at any time, and he may be removed by a majority vote of the present members of The Society, at any regular meeting, following adoption of a resolution at a previous regular meeting to vote on removing the Moderator at the following meeting. Upon termination of office, which may occur by resignation or removal or loss of membership, a new Moderator may be selected by majority vote at any regular meeting of The Society, following adoption of a resolution at a previous regular meeting to vote on election of a new Moderator at the following meeting.
Other Positions. The Moderator may appoint members, with their consent, to any other positions / posts, such as Committee Chairman or Committee Member or Program Chairman, or Librarian. These posts continue until the appointee resigns from the post or the Moderator terminates the appointment.
Membership. A member (founding or otherwise) remains a member until he resigns, or is absent without apology from Society meetings for a period of three months. Any adult person (including former members) of The Society may apply for membership. Acceptance into The Society is decided by a majority vote of the members present at a regular meeting. Any member may be expelled, for any reason, by a majority vote of the present members of The Society, at any regular meeting. If the membership becomes large, The Society may authorize a Membership Committee to make decisions concerning acceptance and termination of members.
Regular Meetings. Meetings may be held at a frequency and timing as decided by a majority vote of members present at any Society meeting, subject to the provision that at least one meeting be held in each of at least ten months of each year. If the Moderator is not present at a particular meeting, the members present will elect an Acting Moderator for that meeting, by majority vote. Regular meetings may conduct any business of The Society except for Charter modification. At each regular meeting, the date for the next meeting shall be set (or confirmed, if previously set).
Special Meetings. Special meetings may be convened as desired for the conduct of any business other than election or removal of members or officers. A special meeting is convened at a place and time specified in a resolution adopted at a regular meeting convened at least a week earlier. A special meeting may be held as part of a regular meeting.
Modification of Charter. This Charter may be modified at any special meeting of The Society having the express purpose of Charter modification. Modifications are decided by majority vote of members present. It is the responsibility of the Moderator to prepare a copy of the modified Charter and to provide, within a month, a copy to members requesting a copy (a reasonable fee may be charged for copying).
Records and Recordkeeping. The Society is not required to maintain records of any kind (e.g., meeting minutes, membership lists). In fact, it is preferred that no records be maintained, other than a copy of the current Charter. (If desired, this examplar Charter may be adopted, in which case the Charter copy of record is maintained at the Foundation website; in this case, the Moderator is under no obligation to maintain a separate copy of the Charter.)
Dissolution; Acquisition and Disposition of Assets; Legal Status and Liability. If The Society fails to convene a regular meeting for three consecutive months, it is dissolved. It is intended that The Society not acquire any physical or financial assets, so that upon dissolution, there is no issue of disposing of assets. To this end, all activities and operations of The Society will be conducted using current contributions of money or goods from members, or the unencumbered loan or contribution of facilities, equipment, supplies, food, or services (e.g., a community meeting room, books, snacks, contributions of activity fees from members). The Society is not authorized to set up a bank account or to borrow or loan any item of value. Any loans made a member are personal loans; no one is authorized to obligate or encumber The Society in any way. The Society is not a legal entity (e.g., a registered corporation, partnership, or other legally recognized association), and has no recognition, rights, privileges, existence or status under the law. Individual members are individually liable for all of their own actions.
3. Suggested Program Organization and Content
The Society shall conduct regular meetings on a weekly basis, at a time and place to be decided by the members. The following is a suggested program for a regular meeting.
For item (6), goal setting, larger groups may consider use of the SYNCON (SYNergic CONvening) paradigm described on pp. 226-228 of Barbara Marx Hubbard’s Conscious Evolution (see description at end).
The topics included in New Age cover a wide range, and The Society may discuss any that are of interest and consistent with its Charter.
The following is a suggested reading list for new members. It is not intended to be comprehensive or “balanced.” It is simply a starting point. It includes mainly books that are popular and in print, so that they are easy to obtain and generally available in paperback editions. Inclusion of a book in the following list does not imply that The Society endorses the content of the book.
For those with Internet access, check out the following web sites or Internet contacts.
Referenced by Barbara Marx Hubbard in Conscious Evolution:
a. The Center for Visionary Leadership, http://www.visionarylead.org
b. The State of the World Forum, http://www.worldforum.org
c. Re-Creation: The Foundation for Personal Growth and Spiritual Understanding, http://www.conversationswithgod.org
d. The Foundation for Global Community, http://www.globalcommunity.org
e. Society for the Universal Human, http://www.lecworld.org
f. Barbara Gaughen Muller, http://www.worldpeace2000.org/ideas
g. New Horizons for Learning, http://www.newhorizons.org
h. Andrew Weil, MD, http://www.drweil.com
i. The Heart Math Institute, http://www.planetarypub.com
j. The Hendricks Institute, http://www.hendricks.com
k. The Institute for Noetic Sciences, http://www.noetic.org
l. First Millennial Foundation, http://www.millennial.org
m. Foundation for the Future, http://www.futurefoundation.org
n. United Religions Initiative, http://www.united-religions.org
o. Living Essence Foundation, http://www.infoasis.com/people/lef
p. The Natural Step, http://www.emis.com/tns
q. Best Practices Database, http://www.bestpractices.org
r. EnviroLink Network, http://www.envirolink.org
s. Health World On-line, http://www.healthy.net
t. Institute for Global Communications and Peace Net, http://www.igc.org/igc/index.html
u. Right to Know Network, http://www.rtk.net
v. New Civilization Network, http://www.worldtrans.org
w. Global Visions, http://globalvisions.org/cl/elkin
x. World Peace 2000, http://www.worldpeace2000.org
y. Tribute 2000, http://www.tribute2000.org
z. Earth Concert 2000, http://www.cybernaute.com/earthconcert2000
aa. Light 2000, http://www.light2000.com
bb. The Futurist, http://www.wfs.org/wps
cc. YES! A Journal of Positive Futures, http://www.futurenet.org
dd. Utne Reader, http://www.utne.com/links
ee. New Dimensions Radio, http://www.newdimensions.org
ff. Radio for Peace International, http://www.clark.net/pub/cwilkins/rfpi/rfpi.html
gg. The Wisdom Channel, http://www.wisdomchannel.com
hh. WETV, http://www.wetv.com
Various Internet resources on metaphysics, including:
a. Rudolf Steiner’s works, at http://www.elib.com/Steiner/Books/
b. Metaphysics: Multiple Meanings, http://webstyle.com/alan/metamul.htm
c. Metaphysics by Default, http://mbdefault.org/default.asp
d. The Salem New Age Center, http://www.salemctr.com/newage.html (contains several New Age book lists)
e. New Age Spirituality, http://www.religioustolerance.org/newage.htm