In Defense of the New Age Movement -- or: a Case of Blind Skepticism
Not a Science -- and Without a Scientific Rival
I am not going to beat around the bush with any introductions, so here is my main argument to those skeptics calling the New Age movement a "pseudoscience" -- and claiming that they only stand by a hard evidence.
While psychology is the only true rival to the New Age, it is not really a "science" at all, but rather an interpretive, speculative art based on some educated guesses.
Let us be clear about the correct definition of science. In order for any area of study to qualify to be called that, everything it claims as "scientific" has to be repeatable and predictable under same conditions.
As we know, when it comes to human mind, not much is predictable there, considering the enormous variables suggested by innate and acquired individuality of each human specimen. In other words, 2+2 doesn't always add up to 4 in the dynamics of the incredible complexities of mind.
Since mind and body seem to be merely one entity -- a mindbody -- just manifested in two different aspects, that further complicates the matter, because now we are talking about all the gamut of possible physical contributors to the mental states. For a simple example, a chronic constipation may also be manifested as a depression. That "feel-good" neurotransmitter serotonin is produced in bigger amounts in our gut than in our brain, and when the crap goes static, brain goes crappy.
It works in the opposite way as well, and that's what New Age is exploring. Namely, if we chronically harbor some self defeating beliefs about our not being enough, not being worthy, our body will oblige it -- by not absorbing from the food necessary nutrients; we will be activating genes of disease and aging, and those beliefs will further manifest themselves in our energy level, affecting our entire physiology. It is even a scientific fact that the nervous system works in unison with endocrine and immune systems.
So, if psychology is supposed to be that more reliable "science" than the tenets of New Age, a skeptic might as well think again. Especially when reminded about a pretty unimpressive statistic success rate of psychology applied in therapeutic treatments.
Moreover, New Age never claimed to be a science, so why is it called "pseudo-" or "fake" science?
We use science to build a bridge, principally physics and chemistry -- add architecture, if it wouldn't fit more among arts of a sort, due to its creative component. But we don't need science to dissect every aspect of human behavior.
We just can't squeeze the man's mind into some theoretical probabilities and then catalog all that enormous dynamics with some fancy terminology. Just because there is a certain limited causality between different states, they are still a matter of a random chance. So, you can ask a 5 year old if he wants a toast or cereal for breakfast -- and he may say: "I want an ice cream".
When our good skeptic falls in love, it's not ONLY AFTER he has first measured her nose, her boobs, her waist, and after she provided a doctor's clean bill of health -- so that his passion for hard facts gets satisfied first, to give a green light to that other passion.
And then, providing that she also produced an additional proof that she doesn't have any STD's, before he makes love he doesn't first study a good book on sexology to make sure he is doing it right.
There is no "science" in humor, and no science has ever successfully explained why yawning is so contagious.
Besides, if science is allowed to upgrade itself, without any previous stages of it being called "pseudoscience" -- why isn't the same allowed to the New Age movement?
Finally, why expect from it to be "scientific", if even psychology is not really a "science"?
But, of course, I am not telling anyone here to quit seeing their mental health care providers or medical doctors and replace them with New Age stuff. That's something to do "on the side", as a maintenance of stress management. And then, if it turns out to be more than that with its benefits -- you can always tell your doctor that you are feeling great after "doing some homework" on your own.
Where Is Hard Evidence?
Roughly speaking, with exceptions of chemistry, physics, and math, hardly any other science is truly reliable. Let's take a little stroll visiting couple of those so called sciences that are supposed to be "based on hard evidence".
The other day I was watching a video with an acclaimed Darwinist, who repeated a few times exactly that claim -- that he only relies on hard scientific evidence. Well, long story short, no one in the audience bothered to remind the good academic how his Evolution is still only a theory, not a science.
Indeed, the true origin of man is still up for grabs. Invent a theory of your own, it may be just as good. For example, say that we were genetically engineered by extraterrestrials, and you will find an enormous amount of "evidence" in archaeology, with some artifacts obviously machined at times when only primitive tools were supposed to be around.
One conclusion leading to another, you may start wondering why that big jump in "evolution" from some tribal primitive ignoramuses to a brand new model of man who is suddenly capable of building all those incredible architectural marvels that can't be reproduced by our modern technology.
And then, for the final touch to your theory, you will hear some top geneticists claim how our genome has genes which are not present in any other life form on earth -- which would be impossible in case of our having evolved from an ape. Hey, they even talk about "god" gene, and "immortality" gene, the one which is, unfortunately, only expressed in cancer cells -- so far.
So, here you have your own, (and mine) alternative to the theory of evolution.
But then, a skeptic goes nuts when he hears New Agers say how we are partially "mini-gods" in our own personal space, responsible for every aspect of life in us, and with a power to affect both our mental and physical health -- with our minds alone.
Guess what? There is a growing evidence -- yes, scientific evidence -- that even our telomeres, responsible for our longevity, get longer with a cultivated rosy disposition, positive beliefs, and constructive attitudes -- which happen to be main objectives of this, much shunned and ridiculed, New Age.
Nevertheless, let's pay a short visit to history as a "science". For its dubious credibility, someone called it "his-story". Who really knows how reliable were those stories of those ancient historians. Imagine a historian of these days, let's say one who hates Trump, who might write in his records how Hitler's infamous slogan "Deutchland uber ales" (Germany above all others) has the same historical weight as Trump's much loved slogan "America first".
That would be something that kids of next generations would be learning as "history". Well, unless people's consciousness would evolve by then -- with the help of New Age -- so that history would stop being relevant, and only NOW and FUTURE would matter, as the New Age is professing.
Not "Scientific" Enough to Be Deadly Scientific
We could say that the New Age tenets are based on the phenomena of placebo effect and meditation. While meditation has a special place as a technique of sinking into our human essence for the experience of pure consciousness and its curative and enlightening effects -- placebo is the one that's mostly under attack by the skeptics.
Now, we all know that placebo is based on believing in positive outcomes, usually in scenarios of self-healing, or so called spontaneous remissions.
So, it's about belief, let's face it. What skeptics don't seem to know is that our personality makeup is in entirety composed of beliefs, which are the very template of all our behavior, our choice of thoughts, reactions, emotions, and yes -- even physical states.
Take self confidence for an example. Is it based on "facts"? Is a skeptic kidding himself about it by seeing his confidence as a result of something "great" about himself? It's a deliberate belief, nothing justified by facts. For, if he sees himself as "good looking", it depends on the taste of those who are looking at him, so it's not an objective fact.
If he sees himself as "smart", then he must be comparing himself with those "less" smart, because in comparison to some truly smart asses he may be a little better than a village idiot.
So, there is nothing scientifically provable about confidence, while standing on its own feet -- it's all made of the fabric that New Age keeps using all the time.
It may not be something familiar to the skeptic, but we don't really live our lives on basis of the factual reality but on basis of our reactions to it. The "fact" that it's raining, per se, means nothing to you, it's only what you are making of it.
You see how elegantly we keep dancing towards New Age where "hard science" doesn't matter, but only our belief system, which is either working for us or against us.
Hey, again, New Age is not about building a rocket, it's about giving people hope and a set of new beliefs which put them in driver's seat, while replacing those beliefs which made them feel like victims. You could almost see some good psychotherapy there -- of course, if it was not so tempting to call it "nonsensical pseudoscience".
Those skeptics remind me of kids in my childhood who couldn't play a game, so they did their best to spoil it to the others. Many a skeptic tried to use New Age on himself, but either due to a lack of persistence, or due to his inability to surrender to something new out of fear of leaving his comfort zone -- he didn't succeed. All pissed about it he didn't want anyone else to undertake it, so he made it his business to mock it.
When a so-called "New Ager", otherwise a learned dude, provides pictures of brain activity from members of attending audience of his workshop, as they were taken before and after their intensive participation, how do you call it a "New Age mambo-jumbo" in face of those evident, plus those subjective improvements.
When a mass of attendants come out of it with measurable great results, some dropping their crutches, others losing their tumors, or even some deadly disease -- proving that mind alone did it, no diet, no prayers, no exercise -- how can someone have the nerve to call the dude a fraud?
And, while successes of the New Age may be called "anecdotal," those fatalities caused by "highly scientific" medical/pharmaceutical establishment are anything but "anecdotal", with some 300,000 deaths each year, in the US only.
On the other hand, no one has ever died from meditating, or focusing on their "energy chakras", or while practicing blissfulness.
When Effective, Help Is Welcome From Anywhere
Placebo is affected by suggestion which is technically a self-suggestion. So, now we know that suggestion works, sometimes with results which may look miraculous.
Really, what does a skeptic have against suggestion? For, if he would want it outlawed, he would have to demand most of our cultural paradigm be proclaimed as a fraudulent activity.
All advertising, all politics, all religions, and even he would have to see himself as fake at his date, while trying to advertise his good qualities to that woman.
So, it doesn't really matter if you get a help by someone dressed up in an outfit of an Indian guru, or you find help by someone in his office with an impressive (suggestive) diploma on his wall. Just the same, it doesn't matter if a savvy bartender casually gives you a marriage-saving idea, or it's a priest, a shrink, or a good friend -- none of them being really a "scientist".
As our skeptic is watching a good movie, he must know that it's all only fiction -- so why does he watch it, if it's not true?
Psychologists can play with fancy words all they want -- and they usually want -- but they can't explain why we want to be entertained. There is no science in most of our inner "reality", because it's made of the same fabric as dreams.
Hey, Mr. Skeptic, we are not dealing with reality, but only with some givens suggested by collective consciousness which became our models of processing factual reality. Our five senses are limited, sending their limited inputs into our highly selective brains, where our brains form "reality" in accordance with our beliefs about what we are perceiving.
And all this is just another crappy way of explaining what is really going on in our personal space, because the ultimate truth is inconceivable, and unfathomable, and impossible to verbalize. So, why don't we stop playing someone with a licence to tell apart true from imagined, and instead allow anything that works for us -- to work.
And I mean anything.
Including the New Age.
© 2019 Vladimir Karas