In the wake of the disappointment of the non-appearance of the New Age, through the 1990s, we can see the same two reactions to the disappointment that occurred among the Millerites in the 1840s. It is estimated that three- to five-million people identified with the New Age during the 1980s, the great majority of them being new adherents, not previously identified either with theosophy, New Thought, astrology, or related phenomena. They did not simply abandon their faith, but looked for ways to cope. At the same time, thousands of people had adopted a New Age career as a channeler, holistic health practitioner, publisher/editor/writer, or workshop teacher. The disintegration of the movement would place all of these people out of work. They had every reason to perpetuate the movement.
An immediate reorientation for New Age believers had been offered by Spangler, New Age publisher Jeremy Tarcher, and others in 1988. They suggested that what had held them in the movement through the previous decade of waiting for the New Age to appear had been the personal transformation they had experienced. They now realized that their own personal spiritual enlightenment and new self-understanding was the valuable asset that they had received from participation in the Movement, ultimately of such worth as to make the loss of the New Age vision of relative unimportance. Even though their was little reason to believe that a New Age would appear as a social phenomenon, there was every reason to continue personal processes leading to healing, awareness, and mystical union. The great majority of professionals in the movement were practitioners of various occult arts concerned with facilitating individual growth and healing.
They appeared quite willing to fall back into older occult metaphysical systems that utilized more spatial metaphors rather than evolutionary historical ones. At the personal level, the appropriation of psychic experience was very like psychic awakenings at any point in time. It is apparent in the post New Age era that many are content with this approach. It is also apparent that as occurred in the Post-Millerite era, new leaders not ready to abandon millennialism in toto have arisen to suggest new directions.
Post New Age Millennialism Among the more prominent new date-setting schemes is that being promoted by Solara, a guru/teacher now residing in Montana. She appeared in the late 1980s with a new post- Harmonic Convergence program that would lead people, not into the New Age but to Ascension. As we shall see, Ascension is the new symbol that has replaced the New Age as the goal of post-New Age believers. She called people's attention to a new symbol, "11:11." Eleven-eleven, she described as the insertion point of the Greater Reality [God] into human existence. As she called attention to 11:11, people began to see it everywhere, from calendars (November 11) to digital clocks. When 11:11 appears to you, she suggested, it is a divine wake-up call to your soul.
The 11:11 symbol was becoming more prominent in the late 1980s, however, because it was calling attention to a massive event of importance to all humanity. 1992, she asserted, would be the beginning of a 21-year period during which humanity could take a step forward in evolution, a step into the Greater Reality. We can move from our life now, trapped in the illusion of duality and ascend into Oneness. According to Solara, more than 144,000 people worldwide joined with her and some 500 followers gathered at the Great Pyramid in Egypt at 11:11 PM (Greenwich Mean Time) in activities coordinated to open a Doorway or Bridge between our world of duality and the Greater Reality. During the period between 1-11-1992 and 12-31-2011, these two realms will overlap. 11
Within the Doorway, there are eleven Gates. The Gates are likened to locks on a canal. By passing through each gate one is gradually lifted to a higher level of consciousness. The opening of each successive Gate occurs periodically through the years of the existence of the open 11:11 Doorway. As one enters each gate, specific experiences occur, that is each gate symbolized a specific identifiable change in one's individual consciousness. Upon entering the first gate, which was made possible on January 1, 1992, we experience a healing of our hearts (emotions). The second gate, symbolic of a fusion of our deepest desires with our spiritual aspirations. It opening occurred on June 5, 1993, again accompanied by a massive coordinated global ritual. The third Gate was opened with three distinct rituals in 1997 and the fourth Gate in 1999. The remaining openings will be spread out over the next decade.
Many of the people who have adopted the 11:11 symbol are associated directly with Solara and her Star-Borne Unlimited organization. However, after learning of the 11:11 program, many have assumed a role in the 11:11 program in independent parallel organizations. One such group, the Star-Esseenia Temple of Ascension Mastery, headquartered San Pedro, California, describes itself as a "full service 11:11 Ashtar Command Ascension Center sponsored by the Angels of Light, the Ascended Masters and the Ashtar Command for the purpose of facilitating accelerated mental, emotional and spiritual growth for Earth based Lightworkers dedicated to the Ascension path." It is headed by Commander August Stahr. Stahr, a Reiki healer had an unusual experience in 1991 during a solar eclipse that included her receiving a message to abandon Reiki for a new form of healing deigned to bring in the energies needed for planetary ascension. She subsequently developed healing modalities to assist people handling the changes accompanying the opening of each 11:11 Gate. As her program grew, she developed the Star Team Mastery Program to train facilitators who could work with the growing audience. 12
Commander Stahr's Star Esseenia Temple is but one 11:11 group. A cursory Internet search onbut a single search engine yielded more than 2,000 hits for "11:11+ascension." Through the Internet, not to mention more mundane means, the 11:11 concept has spread internationally and provided an alternative vision for those who gave up on the New Age.
Ascension As noted above, through the 1990s "Ascension" is the term that superseded "New Age" as the symbol around which former New Agers reoriented their hopes of the future. Like "New Age," Ascension is a symbol to which many conflicting images can be attached, however, the new term indicates a subtle but very real shift in thinking. 13 As New Age was basically a collective symbol indicating vast changes in society, but carrying implications for the individual, Ascension is the opposite, basically a personal symbol, with possible broader social implications. In terms of the occult world, it emerged early in the New Thought movement and then was adopted by Guy Ballard as a major emphasis of the "I AM" Religious Activity. 14 In Ballard's Christianized theosophy, there was little place for resurrection since embodied existence was a lesser state, and the story of Jesus' death and resurrection were largely ignored in favor of a total focus on his Ascension. The goal of "I AM" practice is the gradual raising of the consciousness and refining of the body so that one can escape death and consciously ascend.
It was assumed within the "I AM" Movement that Ascension would be limited to those who engaged in the spiritual exercises that Ballard advocated. However, through the "I AM" and the organizations that grew out of it, such as the Church Universal and Triumphant, teachings on Ascension entered the larger occult community. It is of particular importance that in the 1950s, several people integrated "I AM" teachings with interest in flying saucers. Several groups channelling messages from a reputed hierarchy of extraterrestrials, provided a new conduit for occult teachings in general, and the idea of Ascension in particular, to spread among the general public.
Through the 1980s, channels oriented on both the Ascended Masters and extraterrestrials became a defining element of the New Age. The original New Age vision had been derived from and shaped by channeled messages, and thus it is not surprising that channelers would take the lead in redefining the post-New Age. The most prominent group of channelers who have come to the fore in elevating the idea of Ascension are those loosely associated with the periodical Sedona: Journal of Emergence. This magazine began in 1989 in Sedona, Arizona, a revered location among New Agers as a sacred site of global significance. During the decade many New Age practitioners had relocated to Sedona, and the magazine presented their common message. 15
Initially, Ascension is a personal goal. In the "I AM" teachings, it is a sign of personal accomplishment. Ballard believed that individuals could ascend instead of die, and included an episode in one of his early books describing an ascension he claimed to have witnessed. 16 This belief led to an adoption of vegetarianism and to live a celibate life as a necessary discipline preparing the body for the Ascension process. Ballard's own premature death led to a revision of that belief. Now, almost all "I AM" groups teach that Ascension is of the soul at the time of bodily death. As Ascension teachings spread in the late 1980s, teachers emphasized the soul's self-understanding, spiritual awakening, and personal development all of which led to an attunement with the cosmos.
But channelers also began to suggest the possibility of a global or planetary Ascension. Integrated through the many and variant offerings from the hundred or more channelers who contribute to the Sedona Journal, is a belief that a large group of people (though certainly a tiny minority of the world's population) are in the midst of a significant transformation of consciousness. The transformation is described variously, but essentially will lift them to a new way of seeing the world in its essential unifying and loving reality. As these people attain this new state they will be a magnet through which the whole world will ascend, eventually come to the truth of this higher consciousness.
What is evident in this post-New Age message is the lack of a timetable by which the planetary ascension will occur, though everywhere there is the hint and hope that it will occur in this century. Second, there is the realization that for the presence only a relative few will be engaged in activity focused upon their ascension, though the work of this group will ultimately have planetary implications.
A statement of this new vision, has been offered in the mission statement of New Heaven/New Earth, an Arizona-based post-New Age online newsletter created in 1994:
We also believe that our planet is passing through a time of profound change and are seeking to create a global community of like-minded people that can safely pass through whatever changes may come our way and help give birth to a new way of life on our planet. 17 What one finds in the post-New Age is the successful shift of those who abandoned the millennialism of the 1980s to a post-millennial perspective which has now projected the long-term gradual spread of the higher consciousness that has been the perennial goal of occult activity.
This transition from the "premillennialism" of the New Age to the contemporary Ascension/spiritual emergence movement that has followed it, is nowhere better demonstrated than in the international bestselling books by James Redfield. Redfield, a psychological counselor had been attracted to the New Age during the 1980s, and became an avid reader of New Age and human potentials books. By the end of the 1980s he had become so absorbed in this material that he quit work and concentrated upon creating a synthesis of everything he had learned. The result was a novel, The Celestine Prophecy, self published in 1992. The book would win no awards for either plot or character development, but was a hit with people previously attracted to the New Age. Picked up by a major publisher, it soon topped the News York Times nonfiction bestseller list, and was subsequently translated into a number of languages. Sequels appeared annually through the remainder of the decade.
In The Celestine Prophecy, Redfield laid out his perception that a growing (if unspecified) number of people are engaging in a new spiritual awakening that is permeating the population. A critical mass of people are coming to view their life as a spiritual journey. They are gaining some psychic awareness and making contact with the universal energy that under girds the universe. At some time in the near future all of these people will gain a collective understanding of what is happening to them and arrive at a common vision of the course of humankind in this century. Eventually whole groups of people will experience the higher vibratory states that others call ascension (though Redfield himself does not use the term). In his second novel, The Tenth Insight, Redfield poses the goal of spiritually evolved individuals cooperating on the creation of a new global spiritual culture. 18
Conclusion Through the 1990s, what was called the New Age Movement in the 1980s made a transition from the premillennial vision of an imminent golden age of peace and light to a postmillennial vision of a small group of people operating as the harbinger of the future evolution or Ascension of humanity into a higher life. The New Age Movement led to a dramatic growth of the older occult/metaphysical community, recast the older occult practices in the light of contemporary psychology, and created a much more positive image for occultism in Western culture. The transition of the 1990s, in the wake of the disappointment that the New Age had failed to make an appearance, has allowed the gains of the 1980s to be consolidated. Under a variety of names, the older occult community has been established as an alternative faith community (or more precisely, a set of alternative communities) which share a common hope for their own prosperity in the next century as well as their meaningful role in the evolution progress of humanity.
The New Age may have died, but the community it brought together continues to grow as one of the most important minority faith communities in the West. While showing no signs of assuming the dominant religious role in the West, it is reclaiming and resacralizing a small part of the secularized world. In the future, it will add its strength to those causes that it shares with other faith communities (peace, environmentalism), and as the religious community becomes ever-more pluralistic have an increasing role in inter- religious dialogue and cooperation.
This paper by J. Gordon Melton, titled "Beyond Millennialism: The New Age Transformed," was presented by the author at the conference on "New Age in the Old World" held at the Institut Oecumenique de Bossey, Celigny, Switzerland, July 17-21, 2000. It appears here with the kind permission of the author.
Copyright. J. Gordon Melton. All rights reserved .
Recent literature representative of the anti-pseudoscience movement's appraisal of the New Age would include: Michael Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things (New York: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1997; Martin Gardner, The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988); Henry Gordon, Channeling into the New Age: The Teachings of Shirley MacLaine and Other Such Gurus (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988), and Robert Basil, ed., Not Necessarily the New Age: Critical Essays (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988)..
Evangelical Christian appraisals of the New Age range across a wide spectrum from a more sober critique from a doctrinal perspective represented by Karen Hoyt and the Spiritual Counterfeit Project, The New Age Rage (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1987) and J. Yutaka Amoto and Norman L. Geisler, The Infiltration of the New Age (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1989) to the more extreme Santanic conspiracy theories seen in Texe Marrs, Mysteries of the New Age: Satan's Design for World Domination (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988) or David N. Balmforth, New Age Menace: The Secret War against the Followers of Christ (Bountiful, UT: Horizon Publishers, 1996).
Cf: J. Gordon Melton, James R. Lewis, and Aidan Kelly, eds., The New Age Encyclopedia (Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1990), J. Gordon Melton, James R. Lewis, and Aidan Kelly, eds., New Age Almanac (Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press, 1991); James R. Lewis and J. Gordon Melton, Perspectives on the New Age (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1992); Richard Kyle, The New Age Movement in American Culture (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1995); Pauil Heelas, The New Age Movement: Celebrating the Self and the Sacralization of Modernity (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1996); Wouter J. Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Leiden Brill, 1996); Michael F. Brown, The Channeling Zone: American Spirituality in an Anxious Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997); Jon Klimo, Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources ( rev. ed.: Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1998); and John Saliba, Christian Responses to the New Age Movement: A Critical Assessment (London/New York: Geoffrey Chapman, 1999).
Helpful in defining Western Esotericism are Antoine Faivre, Access to Western Esotericism (Albany, NY: State University Press of New York, 1994); Antoine Faivre, Theosophy, Imagination, Tradition: Studies in Western Esotericism (Albany, NY: State University Press of New York, 2000); and Antopine Faivre and Jacob Needleman, eds., Modern Esoteric Spirituality (New York: Crossroad, 1992).
A start on organizing the chaotic mountain of channeled material that has been produced over the last two centuries has been made by Joel Bjorling in Channeling: A Bibliography (New York: Garland Publishing, 19--).
Integral to understanding the beginning of the New Age are David Spangler's several books, The New Age Vision (Forres, Scotland: Findhorn Publications, 1980); Revelation: The Birth of a New Age (San Francisco: Rainbow Bridge, 1976); and Towards a Planetary Vision (Forres, Scotland: Findhorn Foundation, 1977).
Ken Keyes, The Hundredth Monkey (Coos Bay, OR: Vision Books, 1982).
Ruth Montgomery, Aliens Among Us (New York: Putnam's, 1985).
Shiley MacLaine, Out on a Limb (New York: Bantam Books, 1983).
Franci D. Nichol's The Midnight Cry (Tacoma Park, MD: Review and Herald, 1944) remains an excellent survey of the events surrounding the Millerite enthusiasm.
The 11:11 program may be tracked through Solara's several books such as The Star-Borne: A Remembrance for the Awakened Ones (Charlottesviile, VA: Starborne Unlimited 1989) and How to Live Large on a Small Planet (Whitefish, MT: Starborne Unlimited, 1996), or from her website at http://www.nvisible.com. For an alternative map to the future with a different chronology see "The Children of Light" proposals at http://www.childrenoflight.com.
See the Star esseenia Temple webpage at http://www.star-esseenia.org.
The literature on Ascension is now vast, however, ithas been extensive and comprehensively surveyed in the multi-volume series, The Easy-to-Read Encyclopedia of the Spiritual Path, by Joshua David Stone. The initial volume, The Complete Ascension Manual: How to Achieve Ascension in This Lifetime (Sedona, AZ: Light Technology Publishing, 1994) is a helpful starting point. A sampling of Ascension titles include: Tony Stubbs, An Ascension Handbook: Channeled Material by Serapis (Livermore, CA: Oughten House Publications, 1992); Aileen Nobles, Get Off the Karmic Wheel with Conscious Ascension and Rejuvenation (Malibu, CA: Light Transformation Center, 1993); MSI, Ascension (Edmonds, WA: SFA Publications, 1995).
See particularly, Godfre King [pseudonym of Guy W. Ballard), The Magic Presence (Chicago: Saint Germain Press, 1935)
Sedona itself has become part of the post-new Age worldview and the subject of a growing literature. See: Tom Dongo, The Mysteries of Sedona (Sedona, AZ: Color Pro Graphics, 1988; Richard Dannelley, Sedona Power Spot, Vortex, and Medicine Wheel Guide (Sedona, AZ: R. Dannelley with the Coopertion of the Vortex Society, 1991); The Sedona Guide Book of Channeled Wisdom (Sedona, AZ: Light Technology publishing, 1991); Dick Sutphen, Sedona: Psychic Energy Vortexes (Malibi, CA: Valley of the Sun Publishing, 1986).
Ibid. pp. 270-94
New Heaven/New Earth may be contacted through their Internet site at http://www.newheavenneweath.com.
See James Redfield's several titles: The Celestine Prophecy (New York: Warner Books, 1994); The Celestine Vision: Living the New Spiritual Awareness (New York: Warner Books, 1997}; The Tenth Insight (New York: Warner Books, 1996); The Secret of Shambhala: Search for the Eleventh Insight (New York: Warner Books, 1999).