Where do you place religion? Do you dismiss or set apart New Age from other religions or places in society?
In New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion, Dr. Ingvild Gilhus1, Professor of Cultural Studies and Religion at University of Bergen Norway, maps contemporary “lived” religion into four “spaces”2 within the whole of society.
Four “Spaces” of Religion: There, Here, Anywhere, and Everywhere
|There||Civic, national, imperial religion||Temples and monuments, sacred kingships (royalty), hereditary priesthoods, sacrifice and writings||“Divine” Emperor of Japan, Kabba- sacred stone of Mecca, 14th incarnation of the Dalai Lama, Sharia Law|
|Here||Domestic religion, primarily in homes and burial sites||Family, past and future generations, continuity of family and society||Family rituals, especially meals, gravesite and ancestral ceremonies|
|Anywhere||Religion between ‘There’ and ‘Here’||Marketplace of religious entrepreneurs, associations, including astrologists, psychics||Religious specialists selling magical formulas, casting horoscopes, holding out prospects of a better afterlife|
|Everywhere||Media, public communications, embedded in popular culture: internet, TV, movies, computer games, cultural dialogue||Modern mediatization of religion and the supernatural||Advertisements for oracles and healers in newspapers, TV shows about ghosts and paranormal. Often interactive or call-in|
“New Age” is seen as a peculiar type of religion. This impression is misleading. So-called New Age includes astrology, divination, healing, magic, communication with superhuman beings and many other “spiritual” practices. These practices have much in common with the oldest and most durable forms of religion we know, concludes Gilhus3. New Age fits all the basic forms of religion and is not something peculiar.
By examining religion “there, here, anywhere and everywhere” we see New Age spiritualities as part of the whole “space” of religion in contemporary society3. In the last 20 years, the internet and digital technology has accelerated religion “everywhere” in the mediatized space of religion.
There is no ranking between the four spaces. Gilhus claims they all are equally valuable to the whole. The spaces of religion anywhere and everywhere are often labelled as new religious movements, new age, spirituality, alternative movement, and holism3. The terms “new” or “alternative” tends to separate religion “anywhere” and “everywhere” apart from traditional or conventional religion in the “there” and “here” spaces. In actuality, the four religious spaces interact and reinforce each other in contemporary society.
Instead of dismissing or setting apart so-called New Age spiritualities and practices we should recognize these are part of contemporary religion there, here, anywhere, and everywhere— all over the place.
Question for readers: Do you see an increase or decrease in “religion” in contemporary society?
See my index of posts inspired by the book, New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion.
- Ingvild Saelid Gilhus, Professor of Cultural Studies and Religion at University of Bergen Norway. She is author of ‘Laughing Gods, Weeping Virgins: Laughter in the History of Religion’, ‘Animals, Gods and Humans: Changing Attitudes to Animals in Greek, Roman and Early Christian Thought’, and other books and articles of religious studies.
- Gilhus’ model is from “All Over the Place: The Contribution of New Age To A Spatial Model of Religion” ch 2: p38-39 of New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion edited by Sutcliffe and Gilhus. Acumen: UK. 2013. Print.
- ibid p47