The Difference Between New-Age Spirituality & Authentic Spirituality in 3 Paragraphs.

Via Benjamin Riggs
on Sep 15, 2011
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New-Age vs. Non-New Agey.

Both, readers and writers alike, often inquire as to why elephant journal labels its spirituality section “non-new agey spirituality.” Well, obviously the answer is that we try not to endorse new-age spirituality, which begs the question, “What is the difference between new-age spirituality and non-new agey spirituality? Here is my answer:

Simply put, spirituality is not about changing yourself or creating a newer-better you. It is not a rejection of yourself, but a getting to know yourself in the most intimate way possible. Authentic spirituality is about mindful participation in your own life. While, new-age spirituality is concerned with carving out a new, more exotic role for the ego to play.

The tendency to “change ourselves” manifest in varying degrees, from the subtle to the extreme, but regardless of the severity this business of changing ourselves is always violent. In order to change ourselves, we must divide ourselves and reject the less desirable half. Then, we must force the “bad half” to conform to the dictates of the “good half.” This process of “divide, reject, and change” transforms life into a struggle and carries on indefinitely, leaving in its wake a reservoir of pain, fear, and aggression.

True spirituality is the subtlest expression of non-violence. It is learning to Love, which is difficult. We must be willing to move into the darkest areas of our life and Love ourselves out of the darkness through mindfulness and patience. We have to see our naked body, with all of its perfections and imperfections, and patiently resist the violent urge to reject it. This takes an immense amount of courage. We are terrified of seeing ourselves without any clothes on. We insist upon avoiding ourselves by thinking about ourselves; rather than being our Self. True spirituality is about rediscovering the indestructible dignity of being through the practice of Love.

True spirituality is not limited to religious traditions, and fake spirituality can emerge under a religious guise… Here are a couple of bonuses from a couple of pretty well-known guys that convey the same message:

“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life.

That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ—all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ.

But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself—that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness—that I myself am the enemy who must be loved—what then? As a rule, the Christian’s attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering; we say to the brother within us “Raca,” and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves.” ~Carl Jung

“But who prays for Satan? Who in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most, our one fellow and brother who most needed a friend yet had not a single one, the one sinner among us all who had the highest and clearest right to every Christian’s daily and nightly prayers, for the plain and unassailable reason that his was the first and greatest need, he being among sinners the supremest?” ~ Mark Twain’s Autobiography, via Waylon Lewis



Elephant Spirituality is an example of Elephant Journal’s commitment to the Mindful Life. We look to provide a fresh and practical perspective on traditional spirituality. If you would like to follow Elephant Spirituality on FaceBook click here and become a fan of Elephant Spirituality by clicking the “Like” tab at the top of the page.




About Benjamin Riggs

Ben Riggs is the author of Finding God in the Body: A Spiritual Path for the Modern West. He is also the director of the Refuge Meditation Group in Shreveport, LA and a teacher at Explore Yoga. Ben writes extensively about Buddhist and Christian spirituality on Elephant Journal, and his blog. Click here to listen to the Finding God in the Body Podcast. To keep up with all of his work follow him on Facebook or Twitter.


106 Responses to “The Difference Between New-Age Spirituality & Authentic Spirituality in 3 Paragraphs.”

  1. Skylar Starks says:

    "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths."

    "Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first."

    "But what I am doing, I will continue to do, that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds"

  2. source says:

    When I start your Feed it appears to be to be a lot of nonsense, is the problem on my part?

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  4. […] True spirituality is the subtlest expression of non-violence. […]

  5. Josh Lively says:

    I think the distinction is simply one of the ego vs. the quality that is truly self and purely reflective of the divine. The higher, or "true" self could be thought of as something like Atman — in eastern terms.

    I have come to see the ego as a house or temple; it's where our concious attention tends to dwell — it is like a shrine to our higher self that we unknowlingly make and subsequently manifest by allowing our mentality to be dictated by its nature.

  6. Bill says:

    Too cool. I've often said that I think the Good Book doesn't show us how we should live, instead it informs us of how we do indeed live. I think the stories are way more metaphorical than literal with meanings deeper than what has been explained. Perhaps we are the Creator, Jesus and Satan all in one.