What does talk show host Oprah Winfrey, psychologist Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, medium James Van Praagh and “The Secret” author Rhonda Byrne share in common?
A belief that what you get out of life depends on how you think about life.
It seems straightforward enough. Empowering, even. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that simple.
Have you ever found yourself wondering if there’s too much ego attached to this trendy philosophy? Or what to make of its logical inverse: that victims are self victimizing?
It’s no surprise, really. Those who are successful seek out a self-affirming explanation for their success. A successful individual may look around and see plenty of people with great potential who nonetheless never seemed to get it right. So what was the deciding factor? Talent? Persistence? Intellect? Good looks? A great attitude? Good timing? The right set of parents? Birthplace? A superior education? Friends in high places?
Out of all the possible explanations — perhaps luck (destiny), preparedness (talent), or persistence (dedication) — how many times does it seem even modestly successful individuals adopt seemingly self-congratulatory explanations, concluding, “I maintained a positive (better) attitude”, or “God has blessed me because I have been faithful”, or “I sent good karma out into the world, and it returned to me in spades”?
Whereas ancient man comprehended his own frailty in the face of a brutal natural world, modern man believes in choice over fate, and self confidence over faith. Insulated within the relative safety of our man-made environments, we feel largely invincible. Going from a victim of the whims of the gods to a victorious Creator certainly holds a certain attraction. We are no longer helpless in the hand of fate, for the only destiny is the one we create.
Over the past 40-some years, however, a darker side to the man-as-god mythology has emerged. The same perception of control that inspires a successful individual, forms a motivation to assign blame. “Negative” and “lazy” become character descriptions for those who do not validate another’s perceived sense of order in the universe (control). This attitude doesn’t merely trickle from the top down, either. An unsuccessful individual may brand him- or herself as one’s own worst enemy — the primary cause of one’s adversity. Such an individual may spend years in therapy attempting to negate the innate genetic, biochemical and personality characteristics that make him or her unique.
In a world that holds there are no victims, only self saboteurs, it is easy to embark on a path of self doubt and criticism for one’s perceived lack of willpower (control). This negative self-determination carries weight because it implies the power of choice. If we made some aspect of our lives go wrong via wrong thinking or wrong choices, we can make all right with the world through right thinking and right decision making. We prefer this viewpoint because if circumstances are deemed outside our control, we are forced to confront unvarnished reality: Control is largely illusory.
At one time, American culture tempered emerging New Age assumptions with levelheaded reminders that we are not captains of destiny. The Serenity Prayer, which became a fixture in the 12-step recovery movement, reminds us that we need a higher power to show us the difference between that which we can influence, and that which is beyond our control. Scripture, likewise, deals with this same question, for it is an age-old concern:
“As Jesus went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life,'” (John 9:1-3).
Here we see an example of Jesus teaching that in our frailty, God’s glory, grace and power shines. But in New Age parlance — and, tellingly, even from prominent megachurch pulpits — we learn to measure God’s love with a yardstick that is almost entirely dependent on outward measures of success (abundance — physical, financial and social). Year after year, these false promises are repackaged and re-branded by one talk show guest and bestselling author after another, who in so doing profits handsomely from this self-as-center-of-universe ideology. It is, after all, what the narcissist within each of us wants to hear.
What gives these half-truths such staying power in American culture?
As someone who spent a number of years in the book business, I can venture an educated guess: Books that postulate that there is less order and more chaos fail in the marketplace. After all, the type of people who are likely to seek out and read self help books are typically those who believe that the truth is “out there”. They believe they can find answers in a book, a religion, a philosophy. When at last they connect with an articulate author’s prose, the crowing revelation is that of self as judge, jury and, ultimately, God. Readers aren’t looking to be reminded that the answers to life’s biggest questions are rarely contained in a $15 paperback, or that cultivating a mentality of control may lead to more suffering than success.
Revered author Ralph Waldo Emerson — perhaps because of his success — also advanced this half-baked philosophy:
“Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances — it was somebody’s name, or he happened to be there at the time, or it was so then, and another day would have been otherwise. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”
While the principle of cause-and-effect is by no means entirely false, it is most often observed within the confines of a scientific laboratory. Boiling complex social, spiritual and interpersonal realities down to a question of input vs. output is an outgrowth of the Industrial Revolution and the Scientific Age, not the real-world complexities that humans have been grappling with on this planet for millions of years. The child receiving cancer treatment didn’t “choose” his or her illness. The parents who agonize over a drug- or alcohol-abusing child are not necessarily the cause. The fellow who was injured on the job and struggled to get himself back together cannot be written off as someone lacking in ambition or a solid work ethic. The doctor who is sued for malpractice is not necessarily an incompetent practitioner. The overweight woman at church may not be a couch potato.
A desire to project ourselves into circumstances where others are neither to blame nor congratulate seems innate. But ancient sources of wisdom paint a more restrained picture. A biblical proverb states “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Pr 19:21). Another says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Pr 16:9).
Scripture confirms the idea that life is not fair, and may never be fair no matter how much we struggle to maintain the idea that the universe merely reflects our own intentions. Rather, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” (MT 5:45).
An odd anecdote from the life of the late trance-medium Edgar Cayce backs the biblical concept of fate.
“One day in a large city I entered a department store to do some shopping. I was on the sixth floor and rang for the elevator. While I was waiting for it I noticed some bright red sweaters, and thought I would like to look at them. However, I had signaled for the elevator, and when it came I stepped forward to enter it. It was almost filled with people, but suddenly I was repelled. The interior of the car, although well-lighted, seemed dark to me.
“Something was wrong. Before I could analyze my action I said, ‘Go ahead,’ to the operator, and stepped back. I went over to look at the sweaters, and then I realized what had made me uneasy. The people in the elevator had no auras. While I was examining the sweaters, which had attracted me by their bright red hues—the color of vigor and energy—the elevator cable snapped, the car fell to the basement, and all the occupants were killed.”
Does this sound like a simple case of cause-and-effect? Were the people trapped in that elevator any more deserving or selective of their tragic destiny than the blind man in Jesus’ day whose friends and neighbors presumed a sin on the part of his parents?
Perhaps the strongest “cause” for any form of success is persistence. But persistence doesn’t necessarily correlate with greater intellect, greater talent, better looks or a better attitude that somehow entitles one individual to more “open doors” than another. So rather than allowing popular philosophy to create an insalubrious expectation that one can or should be able control outcomes — an assumption that parallels the meteoric rise in antidepressants, ADHD medications and all manner of costly prescription and illicit coping aids alike — it is time we make our peace with the counterintuitive.
The idea that we can or should live a charmed life if only we project the right set of intentions backed by the appropriate thought process is insidiously toxic. It breeds arrogance among the elite and self doubt among those who have applied such principles only to realize that the Universe does not revolve around, nor faithfully reflect, them. Accepting the reality that good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people may not seem all that comforting, and it certainly won’t sell any books or self-help seminars. Yet acknowledging that the mysteries of life are more numerous than the answers is strangely liberating. Letting go allows us to make peace with an awe-inspiring aspect of life that might otherwise tear at our morale. Only when we remain humble — but for the grace of God there go I — do we allow gratitude, awe, contentment and compassion to heal our relationship with God, ourselves and others. For unlike Eastern philosophies born of gurus who retreated to the solitude of the wilderness, humility will stand beside us amidst our hectic, distracting, and unpredictable contemporary lives.
8 thoughts on “It’s In Your Head: The New Age of Narcissism”
You may judge others and that says nothing of the people you judge, but it says volumes about you. I guess you are not successful from your judgements.
Social Critic’s reply:
Because I don’t know you, what I write about isn’t a personal reflection on you. If I am reading your comment correctly, however, you believe that anyone who advocates humility and compassion over ego and arrogance is unsuccessful? Somehow, I doubt that that is what Oprah, Dr. Dyer, James Van Praagh and “The Secret” authors had in mind. Yet I post your comment because it illustrates how pop philosophy tends to become toxic as it trickles into society at large.
This blog exists to examine Western culture. In this particular essay, I shine a spotlight on a false dichotomy pertaining to our beliefs and expectations about life. Whereas ancient man blamed his fate on the inscrutable gods, in modern society we ourselves are the gods so to speak. Because we are powerful creators we don’t point a finger at fate. Instead, we point it at each other (and ourselves). Is either belief particularly rationale? Or does truth lie in the middle?
One’s perceived sense of control can be used positively (to make responsible life choices) and negatively (to assign blame to self or others). True, we “own” many of our choices as a subsequent comment points out. You’ll get no argument from me on that. Rather, self-empowerment messages are now so commonplace that they have begun to take on a sort of quasi-religious, narcissistic tone. Remember the “me generation” of the 1980s during which many of today’s current talk show hosts and pop culture authors launched their careers? That mindset is still alive and kicking in our culture.
Just as society began to rebel against “victimhood” ideology, the pendulum of popular thought began to swing toward a “God” mentality. In response to the latter, my post concludes that humility — letting go of the illusion of control — is a much more flattering and well adapted personal attribute when compared to the destructive extremes society favors. Humility enables us to spend less time forming harsh judgments about others. It eliminates a neurotic sense of perfectionism or entitlement within our personal lives. And it introduces the opportunity to appreciate life for what it really is, unexpected twists and turns included. If we make peace with our own lives and express compassion towards others in spite of our differences? That is success — the priceless variety.
What’s funny about the egocentric philosophy, “life is all about perspective” is that it always comes from people who after a downfall, encountered success.
My teacher mentioned once in a psychology class that people with clinical depression have a much more realistic idea of self-value and life goals than those who don’t have depression. Wouldn’t that be depressing. It’s that entire reason that I don’t take medication for my own depression; the perspective, albeit unhealthy, has taught me more about life than anything else possibly could have. I know I am tiny and insignificant, but that’s okay.
The world is not in my complete control, nor is my life; I can only suggest a direction and hope that I go that way. The wind and sea does the rest. God makes no difference, and whether he has a “plan” for each of us is irrelevent. All I know is what I can see and deduce.
Chaos is a beautiful, unexplainable thing. It is chaos that I sit back and admire, not control. It is the unexpected that gives any sort of reason to continue being alive.
There’s an opposing social criticism that finds us a nation of victims, or those seeking victim status. Certainly, it’s a tempting notion to blame our ill fortune on “the man” or some unfair social force that keeps us down but that could be eliminated through more laws.
I think it’s empowering to take responsibility for our own lot in life because of the implication in this decision that if we’re to blame for our problems then we should be able to find a solution as well.
This can be, and is, taken to an extreme. For example, I remember when Dana Reeves died, the newspaper headline read “Dana Reeves, NONSMOKER (emphasis mine), dead of lung cancer at 44”. Why did the headline have to mention that she didn’t smoke? Because the first thing in anyone’s mind when they hear about a death from lung cancer is the question, “Did the person smoke”. Because if they did, then all us nonsmokers can say, with a sigh of relief, “well, then that’s not going to happen to me”. Never mind that many lung cancer deaths take place among non-smokers. The ideology holding that we are masters of our destiny dictates that even health problems, which often cannot be blamed on behavior, are somehow a measure of the choices someone has made.
There’s a morality play going on in the way we view things. When someone dies young, people look for reasons why the guy had brought it all on myself. This seems to comfort people. It’s also a Biblical concept. In the Bible, things like sickness and infertility are seen as signs that those afflicted with them are out of favor with God. It’s a natural impulse to attribute divine control to things we can’t understand.
Of course you’re absolutely correct that there are forces of fate and chance that we couldn’t possibly have control over, but that can determine a great deal about our lives. However many of the big decisions, at least in our society – who we marry; what field of work we go into; whether to become parents; whether we save or spend; whether we break the law or follow it; how we conduct ourselves personally; etc. – are within our control. Focusing on those things, a very substantial part of our lives that we are in control of, can help us take responsibility for our actions.
Certainly there is a balance that must be struck here. Blaming one’s self for things that are beyond our control or blaming fate or others for things that are are both flawed approaches to life. I suppose it’s some sort of wisdom that’s required for us to be able to tell the difference between what we can control and what we can’t.
There’s also a difference as to who is doing the blaming. If you’re able to cut yourself some slack for factors that are out of your control that, for example, have reduced your income, will others do the same? It can be mighty convenient to hold someone else personally responsable for bad stuff and saying that everything would have been better if he’d tried harder while holding fate responsible for other things that are afflicting you. There’s always an agenda behind assigning blame.
I like this post and comments. As far as New Age narcissism I think the narcissism came first New Age philosophy is just a way to justify it. But many religions can justify anti-social behavior. I have known many who subscribed to versions of this idea. And I think it is pretty easy to become “successful” when you exploit others, and feel entitled to other peoples work and resources without adequate compensation. In many ways new age narcissism is built largely on America’s unconcious classism with a lack of appreciation of hardship of others.
I also like what lucienlachance. Today we want to medicate our depression to the point that we can not learn from our own suffering. I dated someone who demanded that I “not feel negative emotions!” because I will manifest negative things. So sadness, greif, loss, anger, fear shame are all vorboten in this belief. The very emotions which would inspire humility and temper our narcissism.
On the otherhand some people have been so abused that they try to pry themselves out of their self loathing by over compensating. Some affirmation is good but not to the point of grandiose delusion.
Love your essay on this topic. I was recently introduced to a person by the name of Esther Hicks, who I had never heard tell of and frankly I was apalled at what I witnessed. Not only the nonsense this woman preached but that she also claims to be channeling an “infinitely wise” “collective consciousness”. She basically is trying to explain this ever popular “law of attraction” but at the same time her gimmick is that she is “all knowing” through this alleged channeling she does. I spotted her as a fraud from the get go. What I was more apalled by was how many people went for this nonsense. They believe it and attempt to achieve it. Wayne Dyer actually endorsed this woman as being “the most profound and wisest teaching on the planet today”, which also astounded me. I have never been able to relate to Wayne Dyer either or the likes of him in many others, but this Hicks woman takes it even further beyond insanity and induces an extremely unhealthy worldview to put it mildly.
Your observations here match my own.
After a bit of study of these people I figured that OK, these are wealthy people who have basically gotten wealthy by selling this crap which is a bit of truth mixed in with a lot of wishful thinking and their own personal interpretations of how the universe works and the world for that matter. I always found a huge contradiction in what Dyer SAID and the way he lived his life. When you know how to quote the greats it is hard to go wrong and for awhile I have heard some of his speeches (because I cannot call it teachings, because I for one do not feel he does teach , not me anyway), but I have read those he often quotes. Then I saw how 90% of what he talks about is quoting someone else or paraphrasing what someone else said. Apparently people that claim to be searching spiritually and are attracted to this type of stuff don’t read much of the greats themselves and need someone like Dyer to dilute it for them , interpret it for them and read it out loud. That doesn’t do it for me. I like to read from the SOURCE not someone else’s interpretation of it. He cannot teach anything other than what HE himself knows and has experiences personally. Knowing it and quoting it are two different things and practicing any of it is a third altogether and just because someone can read certain books then regurgitate it back doesn’t mean SQUAT! He may be a good “self help” or motivational speaker but where do they get off ingesting Spiritual truths into their own self created philosophies? I felt offended by him hoarding wealth then preaching to us about “peace”. He seems to be full of ego , yet talks about ridding the ego. I feel as though he is trying to convince himself or speak to his own issues and then he assumes everyone else has the same issues he does. Well maybe some people do. And maybe it is easy to manifest wealth when you ALREADY HAVE IT! They never speak about morality in any of their talks. It’s a kind of “so long as you feel good” and measuring spiritual success with worldly successes, as if that has ever been an ear mark of any spiritual progress or enlightenment. I wondered why if Dyer was so “enlightened” as to be teaching others anything of spiritual value, then why does he hoard riches in a world of so much need? Surely he would have found the ONE law that all find when they find Truth, which is the need for Unconditional Love Right? So that always bugged me badly about him. Then I figured that what is really going on here is that these wealthy people have worldly success, but since that does not bring one happiness, they also want the spiritual to “complete themselves” so to speak, so what they have essentially done, in my view, is create their own religion that simply rationalizes their self serving high standard lifestyles while NOT helping the less fortunate. Their philosophy does in fact induce victim blaming. There are things that are within our control and there are things beyond our control, and wisdom is recognizing the difference and not spending one’s time on those things beyond our control and yet their school never talks about this. I learned that from Epictetus and the Stoics which is where the Serenity Prayer I believe came from . Dyer has said “OH my answering machine says “I want to feel good, so if you are going to say anything “negative” that is not intended to make me feel good, hang up and dont’ leave a message because I want to feel good”. Well, in Truth it is HIM that is interpreting the other as “negative” if he has any form of equinimity as he claims in order to “teach” others how to find peace, then why is he himself so easily turned negative by listening to someone else? Isn’t this the same as saying I dont’ want to hear any of your problems, and further they are all created by you anyway. They take SOME truths and some portions of truth and they mix it up with nonsense to rationalize the things they are doing that are NOT unconditionally loving. How is it unconditionally loving to tell people you don’t want to hear any negatives? That is not only unrealistic it is also selfish, cold and calculating and to me suggests that this person has no control over their own emotions or perception in the first place.
I hate it that he quotes “Mother Teresa” , Buddha, Lao Tzu and Jesus and many others who WERE enlightened. yet not ONE of them LIVED the way he lives himself. Sequestered in a life of luxury and preaching to the rest of us about how to find peace. He’s a constant contradiction and I recently learned through viewing this tape of him and Esther Hicks how he bowed down to her even though she gave , I found over 50 ways to debunk what she was saying as being the polar opposite of the Truth of Spirit as well as the fact that she could not be “channeling any enlightened beings as she claims to be and yet he has endorsed her??? What the hell is that all about. Well they have the same publisher so I guess Dyer does this as a favor to his publisher. I hate it that he will subscribe to and endorse that (as he is very influential ) so people will believe him even when he points to a fraud artist and dangerous whack job like this Esther woman and yet he also at the same time wants to quote Jesus and Buddha, as if he is by any means experiencing the same truths they have found. Not many people have been able to find enlightenment, but these new agers throw that term around so much so that it has lost it’s original meaning. Now they are all “enlightened” in their they are GOD. Dyer has the nerve to on his blog say that this woman as she presents herself as “Abraham” IS him speaking to the “ascended masters” , this woman has told people that she is channeling both Buddha and Jesus. Then why is she teaching the exact opposite of what the Buddha and Jesus both taught? Yet Dyer never once calls her on any of her ongoing contradictions and instead he endorses her as the “most profound and wisest”. If that is the most profound and wisest teachings on the planet today as he states then I guess that explains why the world is in such awful condition isn’t it?
I haven’t seen the world improve much in the past 20-30 years since these people have been creating their huge followings and fortunes, in fact, I have seen it get progressively worse and I attribute much of it to these people and their “teachings”, as those who follow them are among the middle and upper middle class, wanting MORE for themselves (greed and selfishness) while ignoring the plight of others. And all the while they TALK about “unconditional love”. I wish you ‘d do an expose on this Hicks crap, truly. She is down right dangerous as she has taken this LOA a step or two further. She claims children are thinking themselves into childhood abuse, disease ,etc. She has created her own vocabulary that is a load of nonsense , things like “the vortex” and “high flying disc” and “momentum” (which she redefines words) and the people that follow this stuff all speak as if they are brain washed and cult members. I ‘ve noticed she uses cult type practices too and with a serious intent on indoctrinating. She claims that people get cancer from their thoughts and that medicine or medical treatments don’t actually do anything except free the person from their “resistance” to “allow” themselves to heal by their own “alignment with source” and their “vibrations” are correct. And that her late husband Jerry Hicks was the “best controller of vibration of anyone she has ever known”…but he GOT CANCER! and what did they do? Did they employ the teachings they tell others to do? Nope. They ran out to get chemo and then tired to hide it and did it heal him? No , he died. She charges $200 a pop for people to listen to this alleged “all knowing” “Abraham” (which I have never once heard utter any knowledge over and above this woman’s personal knowledge) and people ask “it” questions and she NEVER ANSWERS THEM, instead she talks and goes on and on repeating her lousy explanation of the LOA (which she stole from others work of course) but claims that she discovered it through this “all knowing” entity she speaks with . Which she has the audacity to call “God”. So imagine you are meditating and you hear God speak to you , and what does he tell you? OH, he tells you to go out on the road and charge people $200 a pop to listen to Him through HER). Her version of God is that it is ONLY Consciousness and it is part of us that is left behind when we came here. We chose our parents, we intended to live the way we are living. None of what she says makes any sense and then she uses circular reasoning to explain it all away.
I became more depressed as a result of just knowing this woman is out there doing this and that so many people buy into it.
I figured that these new age “gurus” are the gurus for all the people whose God is Money. Wouldn’t that be a motivational speaker? Why not leave it at that? Why introduce Spirit into the Equation and God? especially when what you preach is the exact opposite? Because it COMFORTS the wealthy who do not Know Truth or God. That’s why. They were not content with all their wealth and they want their cake and eat it too.
Dyer I don’t believe to be as malicious INTENTIONALLY, I think he is rather full of himself and actually believes his own crap. The success he has experienced has gone to his head and his Ego is running that show. He seems to do things that he READS ABOUT like it’s some kind of a game to him , or a hobby , to study spiritual things and it seems as though he does it just so he will have something to write about for another book or talk about in his next speech. But how can he be all over the map as he is unless he is confused himself.
Any TRUE teacher to be RESPONSIBLE would have to know his students. for how can you teach someone if you do not know what they will hear and where they are at ? You are shooting in the dark and he has no way of knowing what damages it could do, for I feel that people find him, like him and STOP LOOKING and they end up as confused and lost as he may be on any given day.
Sorry to be so long winded here but this really gets to me. I am very passionate about the TRUTH and about GOD and I am also very frustrated by the state of our world and I resent these types making themselves rich and in my view adding suffering to the world, in the worst possible way, under the premise they are “doing good”. Road to hell is paved with good intent. and some do not even have that.
What this country needs is WISDOM and a true teacher, who by EXAMPLE teaches the WEALTHY in this country how to conduct themselves and show them the Light of truth of their Soul / eternal vs. their material comfort. These new agers are all about material comfort and “success” in a world that is dominated by success at the expense of someone else, and they not only turn a blind eye to it but endorse others in the name of God to do so.
They are in my view hypocrites and I take every opportunity to expose them as the fakes they are OR lost and delusional and certainly in no position to “teach” others anything other than WORLDLY SUCCESS, which quite often is the polar opposite of Spiritual Success.
I also feel as you do I feel liberated in accepting life on life’s terms. There is much peace in that. Thank you for your most important work, for in the world today , if we are to shine a light sometimes it is necessary for us to shine a light on that which is false, in order to show the True Light. We all have to monitor ourselves, as Socrates and Thales said “Know Thyself” , this first and foremost, otherwise we can become dishonest with ourselves and create damages to ourselves and others. Dyer needs to give it up. If he wants to write fine but why the need to publish everything? Why is it that regardless the millions these people never seem to have enough? I shall end and again sorry for the long reply, I do not mind in the least if you have the need to cut me and /or not publish me and /or publish only part of me. I trust you will do so with the best of all intents and THANK YOU!
If anyone wants to teach the masses today, I think it’d be appropriate to reintroduce the Greeks Virtue Ethics, because Virtue is what seems to be seriously lacking today.
Oh, what’s more frightening is that I noticed on Dye’rs Blog of course there is a page of “products” and he has CHILDREN’S BOOKS! I was like “Oh No” and you just know these people are feeding their children’s minds with this nonsense too! You cannot reinvent truth, well you can but you will live in delusion, yet that is what these people are trying to do and people go along with it.
I wish I would have never seen that dvd with Dyer and Hicks. I never knew about this Abraham Hicks crap before and I was more content not knowing this. It is pathetic and so easy to debunk it just floors me that Dyer can go along with it actually made this DVD with her. I put a WHOLE LOT OF comments on his Blog stating my dissatisfaction and a lot of my debunking as I went through a terribly painful 3 hour discourse between these two, labeled as “master teachers”….Give me a break!
Jesus did say that it would be hard for the rich man to get to heaven did he not? He wasn’t kidding was he?
They’ve gone so far to “create” their own religion to rationalize their selfish lifestyles and lives of constant pursuit of achievement and material gain.
You point out many inconsistencies with new age/old age spirituality/superstition. I had a little trouble with the part quoting Cayce, the elevator , auras etc.. and his explanation that he had some supernatural awareness. But your commentary on the reasons for new age woo was spot on.
Two things came to mind. Remember how the people in the past used to believe that forces of nature: hurricanes, volcanos, earthquakes were the means which they were punished for some indiscretions by their( or other’s) gods. And remember also how certain races proved dominance over less technically or militarily advanced by stating: In the far past that they were of a chosen faith or chosen people and this was their reward( conquering the less chosen). And more recently by being backed by science instead of religion: stating that they were genetically more superior and hence by the law of nature the others deserve to be exterminated, controlled and made into slaves.
There are parallels here. But it’s all bunk. Psychobabble and superstition to control how people should think and act.