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Document Details :
Title: A Chronology of the New Age Movement
Subtitle: Review of A Guide to Esotericism Ancient and Modern
Author(s): PARMENTIER, Martin
Volume: 58 Issue: 4 Date: 1997
In his fascinating doctoral thesis, W.J. Hanegraaff has drawn a clear map to the labyrinth called 'New Age', which he defines as 'the cultic milieu having become conscious of itself as constituting a more or less unified movement'. It is an 'etic' (emphatic but objective) description of 'emic' (intersubjective) points of view held by a wide variety of representatives of this movement. The book is divided in three parts: 1. A general orientation; 2. The varieties of New Age experience; 3. An interpretation of the material presented in parts 1 and 2. The author argues that although New Age is composed of many heterogenous elements, nevertheless a measure of coherence can be demonstrated even on the level of beliefs. He holds that as New Age is based on popular culture criticism, thus western esotericism, in which the movement is rooted, it is a third, 'gnostic' option in western culture next to philosophical and scientific rationalism and institutional Christianity. The reviewer, though enthusiastic about the book, questions it on its criteria for distinguishing New Age and Christianity and on the question of possible esoteric influences on apparently Christian movements. The distinction between faith and gnosis could perhaps be profitably related to God's transcendence and his immanence. The platonism of the early Church, adapted for Christian use, ought to be compared with the many platonic elements of present day New Age.