Secular society’s obsession with categorization has made its way into academia. Academic disciplines are heavily regulated and painstakingly sorted into colleges with other like disciplines. Interdisciplinary work is highly regarded, though it is also thought to be a difficult and complex task. Complex and multi-faceted issues should be at the center of academic work. If an issue or phenomena is studied, explored and analyzed from one disciplinary perspective, much could be lost through the narrow scope. Categorization in academia is becoming so extensive that disciplines of study are created from different methodologies, even when they largely cover the same topic. For example religious studies, theology and philosophy take different approaches but all focus greatly on religion. But what about sociology, anthropology or history? These perspectives would be vital as, “… religion is often not easily separated from the broader category of culture” (Cusack 2010: 20). This trend of almost obsessive specialization works against the synthesis of relevant ideas. While providing plenty of focus for projects in a time and budget strapped world, specialization is not conducive to a broad and balanced understanding.
For a number of reasons, such as its secular elements, New Age does not easily fit the rigid boundaries of ‘religion’. As New Age has been very difficult to define, settling on a suitable academic discipline is equally as difficult. But also, “… to study it in its various components would run the risk of ignoring the ways in which its elements interconnect and overlooking the holism that is so constantly emphasizes” (Chryssides 2007: 23). As academic trends move toward categorization, New Age and other subjects that thrive on holism may suffer. How can a phenomena holistic in nature be studied successfully by a categorized and segregated system? As all religions are part of the whole of culture, these topics need to be approached in a holistic manner.
Chryssides, George D. “Defining the New Age” In Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion, Volume 1: Handbook of New Age. Edited by J.R. Lewis & D. Kemp. Leiden: Brill, 2007: pp. 5-24.
Cusack, Carole. Invented Religions: Faith, Fiction, Imagination. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Group, 2010.