Schopenhauer and the first real new age movements
It may be that the whole new age movement era will pass as contradictions of the various groups in question come to the fore. One of the main ones is that the ‘new age’ is using the ‘old’ era’s stale and broken cliches with the result that everything is at best a kind of fertilizer dumped on western cultures. The results don’t quite gel and the result is failure to produce real development.
I think that this ‘new/old age’ effect will prove devastating to much of the whole movement. The problem is frustrating: the truly modern culture is losing its real coherence, a good example being scientism, the fraud of darwinism, and a shallow view that no longer reflects the modern enlightenment. Next to this is false attempt to graft the old on the new with a set of results that one after the other ends in nothing much: the proliferation of the former ashrams of former people, now departed. Schopenhauer shows how an unwitting student of modern themes (though no doubt a cynic about much of modernity) unwitting reinvented the whole genre in a new mode. The result, imperfect, nonetheless had a vitality that is intriguing. Then, of course, Nietzche ripped off the whole thing and turned it into a commodity the age of scientism could take up, with a Machiavellian twist.
The moment of the early contact with Indian manuscripts was alive with something that is now lost. After Blavatsky’s cascade of frauds the whole new age movement became lost in confusion, and the tide of vampire dead gurus began. (Gurdjieff is a big DITTO here). It amounts to nothing more than fertilizer. How the whole game will develop from that is not clear.
It is no use speaking of Indian spirituality if the whole game is a commercial imposition on westerners looked on with contempt by the source gurus.
But, in a way, this is not a new problem. It was originally the problem confronting India in the Axial period. A New Age dawned and the world of Mahavir and Gautama set a new tradition in motion. In a way Mahavir represented the ‘older era’ passing the baton to Gautama’s new tradition of buddhism. In this context the disparate proliferation of Indic traditions dawdled in decay, and never really escaped that decay. It was a confusing mix of the ancient tradition, and the false grafting of that tradition onto Indo-European nonsense resulting in such things as the Vedic canon, a phantom of nothing, foreign to the ancient legacy, but sophistically inserted into the tradition in deflection of its basic clarity. There the IE grotesqueness of caste entered the Indian sphere and corrupted everything with its Aryan confusions, even as the creation of a new spiritual medium with Sanskrit gave the emerging medley a new linguistic basis. This is perhaps why the realm of ‘later to be called’ ‘Hinduism’ was so stillborn: it was based on a forgotten set of contradictions, with confusing phantoms like the Vedic pseudo-spirituality. However, there was a huge diversity of outstanding religious elements beyond the intake of the Buddhist Reformation, and this gave the rotting mass of proto-Hinduism a kind of mulched vitality that often aped and even surpassed the somewhat colder and narrow Buddhist experiment attempting to create a reformed platform for the sprawl and degeneration of Indic religion. The author of the recent book Hot Yoga has a sense of this and tries to place yoga in the context of imitation Buddhism, with its eightfold steps an obvious imitation of the Buddhist eightfold way. The tragedy of India was the failure of revolutionary Buddhism to complete its task, even as it began to spread beyond the borders of India in a global expansion. The source world of India then suffered the machinations of neo-brahminism, the world of the Gita and its hidden complot to declare war on buddhism. The tragedy went full circle and the buddhists were forced to create refuge zones, such as Tibet. But the problem with Buddhism was its failure to produce a consistent set of realized men, the last in Tibet being the exotic Milarepa. A world plan of Boddhissatwas is all well and good, but the home world of India in dry rot of decaying ‘Hindu’ forms was actually better able to carry on the line of realized buddhas than buddhism itself. The beginning of the whole distorted mess of realized sages, also Brahmin elite chauvinists was under way. This tradition now is likely to succeed in outliving the now collapsing buddhism, and is becoming a business conglomerate of the era of globalization: consider the profits of the yoga corporations and the point is obvious.
A similar effect is visible in the relative relationships of Israelitism, Christianity, and Judaism, the latter not the same as Israelitism. In the same way Buddhism, proto-Hinduism, and then later Hinduism proceed toward a triad of mutual frustration as Christianity surges, like Buddhism, globally, followed by Islam, and then enters the new era under an ambiguous future, no doubt like buddhism to wane and disappear while, analogously, the original discard Judaism shows a resurgence that will overwhelm and destroy Christianity, and create with Hinduism and its caste a set of monstrosities of an older era. Sooner or later the new era will move to new religions or beyond religion. But the danger is of a kind of Hindu/Judaic chauvinism declaring themselves the sole true spiritual cultures and moving to destroy spiritual equality after the fashion of the old Brahmins. Is this alarmist? Let us hope so. But it is good to make public the complot foreseen by a number of Hindu chauvinists, in some cases joined by obsessive Judaic fanatics of the covenental tradition. I think this threat will fade away as all the religions of the old era begin to disappear.
I think then that the whole new age movement with its focus on Hinduism/yoga and its constellation of traditions from Vedanta onward will into decay next to the falling away of Buddhism/Christianity and leave the field open. But without an original new movement like the emergent buddhism of the Axial Age the field will fall prey as India did to false formations like those of the neo-Brahmins and the old Judaic purveyors of the covenental racism.
My point is that most of what passes for new age spirituality, from sufism, to hinduism, to buddhism and christianity will prove unsustainable and begin to look for its true modern exemplars to come (like the somewhat primordial Schopenhauer still barely able to formulate a real path).
In any case, the destruction of buddhism and the resurgence of the dry rot of Hindu contradictions is likely to haunt the new era for some time to come.