REIMAGINATION OF THE WORLD; A Critique of the New Age, Science, and Popular Culture

REIMAGINATION OF THE WORLD; A Critique of the New Age, Science, and Popular Culture

by David Spangler and William Irwin Thompson
Bear and Company, Santa Fe. Late September 1991; paperback.

"A very popular error: having the courage of one's convictions. Rather, it is a mailer of having the courage f or an attack on one's convictions. "- Nietzsche

Nietzsche liked writing that was done with one's “blood”: self-critical writing. The use of blood as a metaphor which synthesizes the earth, air, water, and fire of life into the complexity of one's experience in history seems appropriate in a descript ion of the reflections of these two writers who have had their hearts beat in the midst of the media's “New Age.”

Bly has used “sewerage” to rhyme with “new age,” a judgment that is perhaps less kind than Ken Wilber's portrayal of the new age as an expression of baby-boomer narcissism. And other critiques of new age writing have suggested that its intellectual and spiritual roots are no thicker than a tarot deck – the mere difference between getting stoned and getting crystalled.

Spangler and Thompson, however, locate their roots prior to their work with Findhorn and Lindisfarne. Spangler was a student of science, for example, and Thompson cites a mystical experience he had while reading Whitehead's Science and the Modern World as a teenager.

These two thinkers, then, are far from any stereotype of the typical “new-ager” as an undisciplined, irresponsible, and mindless wanderer who seeks direction and escape from thought and reality through form s of divination. They are two knowledgeable thinkers who know philosophy, science, religion, and art. And their reflections and critiques of the movement they are associated with carry with them the scent of enough blood and courage to satisfy Nietzsche who, like them, was willing to challenge the paradigms of academia and popular culture.

The chapters of the book are based on seminars delivered in Washington at the Chinook Learning Center in 1988 and 1989 and possess a vitality that gives one a sense of being there as a witness in the way one witnesses Socrates in Plato's dialogues. These men speak of their lives, their spiritual and intellectual development, their former hopes scaled down or restructured by their experience over the last twenty years. And while they find plenty of things to dismiss in the so-called new age movement, they both understand to their depths what that movement was opposing in our society.

So while Thompson may decry the “sloppy syncretism” and “vulgarization” of the movement and Spangler may characterize it as “a kind of metaphysical Disneyland ,” they both see the movement as a thrust to express qualities of the “soul of the planet itself.” Spangler sees his fellow workers promoting “the capacity to empower co-creativity and to manifest connectedness, intricacy, complexity, and synergy.”

Spangler and Thompson look back into history and look straight into the emerging future and find value in this movement after they criticize it and themselves. And in being so vibrantly honest, they offer insights into how science may provide a new sense of spirituality based on quantum mechanics and how the idea of “holarchy” may supersede “hierarchy” in esoteric thinking.

I think this book is worth reading for academics who have dismissed the new age with little knowledge of it, since Spangler and Thompson relate new age ideas to the history of thought quite gracefully with all the caution of scientists. And think this book is important for anyone familiar with the new age movement who wants to reflect on her/his own experience. And this book will be a great joy for any critical spirits who like writing to be done with one's blood.


Autumn 1991