A picture can be black and white, shades of gray, or even full color. Truth is often thought of as black and white, but is it? A university professor of mine favored a baseball allegory to explain changing theoretical approaches through recent decades. In the pre-modern era, an umpire would say, ‘There’s balls and there’s strikes, I call them as they are.’ A modern umpire would say, ‘There’s balls and there’s strikes, I call them as I see them.’ An umpire from the post-modern school of thought would say, ‘There’s balls and there’s strikes, they’re nothing until I call them.’ In this simple allegory we can see the progression of how truth is conceptualized: From an absolute truth that exists independent of the observer, to truth being completely dependent on the observer’s experience of it, until we finally arrive at the observer holding all the power as they create truth.
Curiously enough, in my largely informal but highly integrated observation of New Agers, I have witnessed all three methods of thought put to use. The pre-modern notion of absolute truth is exhibited in the way New Agers often strip away the structures of organized religion in the interest of discovering the raw wisdom and spirituality that lies at the core, suggesting these elements exist independent of followers, nay-sayers, or resultant social constructs. Often the layers of meaning contributed by organized religion throughout history are thought to taint or water-down the faith rather than enrich it. Yet there is also evidence of the modern approach: letting one’s experiences dictate the individual’s understanding of truth. New Agers are encouraged to explore many different traditions in search what ‘speaks to them’. They take what beliefs and traditions ‘serve them’ and leave behind the rest. They search for ‘their truth’, led by their own experiences.
Even the post-modern is evident in New Age, especially in the genre of self-help. New Age logic affirms that you can become whoever you want, and dreams can become reality; all through the power of our thoughts and the strength of our will. The Buddhist principle of emptiness is one example I’ve heard frequently in New Age circles. Nothing has a nature of its own; the observer dictates the nature. A person or a situation is not bad, good, scary or loving on its own; the observer assigns such characteristics. In this school of thought all power lies with the observer. Your world can change if you change how you regard it. Truth can change from one person to the next with varying worldviews.
I hope to learn more about this progression of thought: pre-modern, modern, and post-modern. But more so to explore how elements manifest in the New Age milieu, and how these different theoretical structures are reconciled in this highly complex and loosely organized system.