A Brief History of New Age Spirituality

new age spirituality

Are you curious about new age spirituality?

A lot of people say something is “new age” without fully understanding what this means.

Spiritual movements are often called “new age” simply because they are contemporary. Others may be “new age” because they focus on metaphysical thought.

“New Age” does refer to a relatively new type of spiritual movement that is still ongoing.

But the New Age movement began in the second century B.C. Its history is rich, touching on cornerstones from a variety of spiritual movements.

In this post, we’ll look at the history of New Age spirituality so that you can have a firm understanding of its tenets.

The Roots of New Age Spirituality

Most people believe that New Age spirituality took force in the 1970s and 1980s. But the New Age movement itself has far more ancient origins.


Many New Age followers believe that Gnosticism was the first form of New Age beliefs. This religion took force in the second century. It emphasized the fact that every human body has a “spark” of the divine within.

Contemporary New Age religion centers around this notion of all humans as divine. Followers do not believe that humans have sinful bodies. Nor do they believe these bodies are under the jurisdiction of “other” divine beings.

Gnosticism’s emphasis on spirit rather than body is significant. Its belief in spiritual evolution is an important part of today’s New Age religion. Its perspective on the spirit realm and divine knowledge is also part of New Age metaphysics.

New Age followers don’t believe that all matter is “evil,” as Gnostics believe. But they do celebrate the notion that we are all a component of the divine.

People still follow the Gnostic religion today in some part of the world. However, the movement’s peak occurred during the Middle Ages.


In the 17th century, a few anonymously written spiritual manifestos were circulated. A lot of people assumed that these manifestos were jokes or literary allegories at the time.

But a large cultural and spiritual movement emerged from the manifestos’ contents. This movement eventually was called Rosicrucianism.

These manifestos preached the divine knowledge of ancient mystic texts. Followers could turn to these texts for knowledge about contemporary life.

Through these texts, they could also discover the secrets of the universe.

Contemporary New Age followers continue to rely on ancient metaphysical thought and doctrine. They especially value that of Eastern religions and philosophy.

The New Age movement emphasizes the importance of sacred, mystical doctrine.

Rosicrucianism is often presumed to be the precursor of the Freemasons. Freemasons place great value on free speech and “secret” teachings.

Eastern Religious Traditions

Modern New Age spirituality incorporates many principles of ancient Eastern religions. These include Hinduism and Buddhism.

Like Rosicrucianism, Hinduism places special emphasis on sacred texts. It particularly reveres the Vedas, Hindu scripture believed to be immortal

Much like Gnosticism, Hinduism also believes in a universal divine being. This being is “all truth” and eternal.

Buddhism and Hinduism also follow Gnostic notions of self-realization and secret knowledge. Yet both apply these to a global context.

They also recognize the divinity in all human beings. Self-development is important to achieve eventual union with the divine.

New Age spiritualists turn to ancient teachings to seek the answers of the universe. Many believe they are on journeys back to the divine source. While every New Age follower is different, many may adhere to specific Buddhist or Hinduist principles in their daily lives.


Contemporary New Age followers are likely to turn to principles of astrology in their understanding of the universe and their place in it. The practice of astrology can be traced back to before Gnosticism’s origin.

Astrology observes the motion and alignment of the stars and planets within the galaxy and their relationship to human behavior, character, and existence.

New Age followers may integrate astrology practices into their belief system. Others view astrology as a means of bringing man closer to nature, a union that is rooted in the divine.

The Modern Movement

The New Age religion didn’t fully cohere until around the 1970s in Western nations. The movement was spearheaded by prominent metaphysical groups and David Spangler, a practical mystic and philosopher.

At this time, many people believed the world was preparing to enter the “New Age” or “Aquarian Age,” a time of enlightenment and global unity. A lot of historians and religious scholars credit the movement’s inception to the aftermath of World War II and the Vietnam War.

In fact, that is what New Age spiritualists believe deeply in: the approach of global enlightenment, in which all humans will recognize their divinity and strive for union with nature, other humans, and the divine (God).

The New Age movement is often set in contrast to other orthodox religions that discuss notions of sin, a heaven and a hell, and moral eligibility. Its emphasis is on the individual in relation to a larger, more divine whole.

New Ageists also emphasize the importance of self-development and self-realization, much like its origins. Followers tend to practice self-awareness through yoga, meditation, mindful eating, and more.

Most importantly, the New Age religion believes in organic evolution as applied to the spirit. This means that humankind is constantly evolving closer and closer to the divine source, and eventually will become that divine source or God.

New Age followers also believe that because we are essentially all divine, we have the power to manifest or create our own reality.

Final Thoughts: New Age Spirituality

New Age followers don’t necessarily adhere to a strict set of principles, rules, or manifestos. However, this type of spirituality can be traced as far back as the beginning of Gnosticism, a religion that recognized the divinity inherent in each of us.

From Gnosticism to Hinduism, the religions behind New Ageism share a common thread of striving towards union with the divine and always seeking the truth.

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