During the early years of the last century, ideas from India and the east began to permeate the western consciousness and created quite a stir among groups of intellectuals and early American mystic seekers of truth outside the realm of the official Christian Church doctrines. These “new thought” groups sprang up quite quickly, included among them theosophy founded by Madame Blavatsky a Russian noblewoman.
Theosophy is considered by many to be the founding basis of the New Age movement in America and Blavatsky is often named as its founder. Other groups who did not follow the exact concepts of Blavatsky also appeared adding additional offshoots and countercurrents within the general movement of new thought at that time in history. These “new thought” groups can come under the general title esoteric eastern “wisdom” and eventually evolved into the core of the modern New Age movement you may be familiar with today.
Anyone who wishes to understand the New Age movement and its philosophical roots should review several books from the major New Age teachers including Blavatsky and my favorite, Ramacharaka, a self-professed Western initiate and yogi who wrote the best introductory texts – simple and thorough.
Those looking for the dark side of the New Age can easily see it in any of these books as well, though they are easier to spot in Blavatsky’s material and others who followed her such as the Gnostic, Samuel Aun Weor, who writes some truly terrifying occult books showing the dangers of the collective unconscious for the unprepared and unaware. Ramacharaka is definitely the safest option here, but the darkness of the original founders of the New Age movement can be seen clearly even with him, especially when he occasionally mentions the “great white brotherhood”, which I believe was at least partially a reference to secret societies that still subscribe to an unpleasant elitism, to say the least.
Much secret society information was passed on openly to the public through the New Age movement. This information became part of the generally circulating literature of the modern Occult movements. A great deal of fear surrounds these subjects, not only because the Church denounced all such knowledge (while keeping extensive volumes of this and other knowledge secret in its archives in the case of the Vatican), but because of the general lack of awareness of the darkness in humanity as a whole made these subjects dangerous to those who entertained reading about them without a degree of protection and self-knowledge, especially the heavier, darker texts such as Aun Weor’s books.
This can be said of today’s readers as well, and it would be well advised to breathe consciously and to have a practical understanding of how to deal with dark emotions before one attempts to digest much of the heavier New Age material such as Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine : The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy.
That being said, Ramacharaka’s books are written from a much lighter perspective, and there is a considerable degree of intellectual light to his writings evidencing at least to his own personal good intentions. Ramacharaka covers the span of different areas of Yoga that essentially are derived from the schools of Indian thought on these subjects. For a basic safe new age/occult education in the common terms and concepts that these mystic types study such as explanations of auras, personal magnetism, ancient civilizations, and the levels of the metaphysical self, Ramacharaka offers an easily read systematic overview of the entire subject.
The first book that one should read is Fourteen Lessons in Yogi Philosophy, as it is the introduction to the basic concepts that one will encounter that will allow you to easily understand the basic New Age jargon and epistemology. Much of this book centers around explaining the various levels of the mind and the spirit as understood by New Agers including the aura, the instinctive mind, the emotional mind, and the spiritual mind, as well as the “I am” spirit which is called atman in Indian philosophy and is the seat of the ego. After this book, the Advanced Course in Yogi Philosophy covers deeper concepts and goes into a greater depth than the first book including covering the basics in regards to spiritual evolution and karma/dharma.
These two books give one a sufficient background in the material to understand the basic theological and New Age worldview as well as a great deal about eastern religious mysticism. Beyond these two books, Ramacharaka wrote several subject specific books including Raja Yoga, which is the yoga of mental discipline and mental training. Gnani Yoga essentially covers the yoga of philosophy and reason as well as the Eastern cosmology which would correspond to western philosophy here in the west before modern science. Hatha Yoga: or the Yogi Philosophy of Physical Well-Being is a book that basically outlines what most westerners think of when they think of Yoga, which is physical yoga. Ramacharaka is highly critical of Western physical Yoga in this book and overviews the subject from an Indian perspective. Additional books by him are available, and I have read several of them, all of which I would recommend.
The weakness of the entire New Age movement is very clear when seeing and reading the best and brightest of the New Age thinkers such as Ramacharaka. Essentially because of their focus on the left brain intellect, they ignore the feelings and emotions that are actually the source of wisdom and knowledge. Inserting intellectual systemology in place of intuitive sense and conscious breathe, the New Age movement has long been overly focused on intellect while the dark and light feelings remained hidden from the conscious mind. Essentially the conscious mind and the unconscious emotions/feelings were not integrated, creating confusion and idle intellectual speculation that failed to provide anything of substantive constructive personal use. Love, for instance, is something that can only be fully realized by feeling and overcoming the darkness of fear through courage and focused breath awareness.
The understanding of those feelings and the proper use of those feelings while breathing consciously is the proper conduit for a full life and a healthy mind. It is essential for mental and emotional health that one understands the human emotional grid, a subject covered on my metaphysics website. Once you learn how to feel for yourself, you can move beyond learning by memorization and naked intellect, and can figure out for yourself what is true and what is false without relying on others to give you those answers simply by breathing and using your conscious feelings. That is the essence of New Consciousness of the One Spirit of the Earth and the One Human Spirit that is slowly, but surely, breaking out of its subconscious confines and into the light of the conscious mind. The new motto of the New Age might simply be Breathe, and Know Thy Self.