The term New Age describes a broad movement of late-20th century and contemporary Western culture, characterised by an individual eclectic approach to spiritual exploration. Collectively, New Age has some attributes of an emergent religion, but is currently a loose network of spiritual teachers, healers, and seekers.
The movement is most visible where its ideas are traded—for example in specialist bookshops, music stores, and New Age fairs. The name "New Age" also refers to the market segment in which its goods and services are sold to people in the movement.
Though there are no formal or definitive boundaries for membership; those who are likely to sample many diverse teachings and practices (from both 'mainstream' and 'fringe' traditions) and to formulate their own beliefs and practices based on their experiences can be considered as New Age.
Rather than follow the lead of an organised religion, "New Agers" typically construct their own spiritual journey based on material taken as needed from the mystical traditions of all or most world religions, including shamanism, neopaganism and occultism.
Most New Age practices and beliefs may be characterized as a form of alternative spirituality or alternative religion. Even apparent exceptions, such as alternative medicine or traditional medicine practices, often have some spiritual dimension — such as a conceptual integration of mind, body, and spirit.
Because the New Age term is generally limited to a Western context wherein the Judeo-Christian tradition and Positivism are dominant, the use of "alternative" (rel. religion and/or science) generally implies a contrast with the dominant beliefs. Hence, many New Age ideas and practices contain either explicit or implied critiques of organised mainstream Christianity -- emphasis on meditation suggests that simple prayer and faith is insufficient. Belief in reincarnation (which not all New Age followers accept) challenges familiar Christian doctrines of the afterlife.
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