Written by Caitlin Mason.
Art by Jared Rice.
Let’s be honest folx, the New Age looks a little different these days. Maybe you’ve experienced it IRL, or more likely, it has appeared in your feeds. Maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about, and I envy you.
Once I started to see slightly conservative ideologies creeping up in my normally progressive For You Page, it wasn’t long before I began hearing them parroted by people around me. Alt right fanatics weren’t just storming the capitol dressed as viking shamans, they were infiltrating spaces I considered myself a part of!
My spiritual journey had led me down a path of finding what felt good for me and doing it all consciously with care, community, and connection at the core. I use tools like yoga, mediation, tarot, and spell work to help heal my trauma. I love merging my occult interests with science and psychology (my academic background) through seminal works like The Body Keeps Score.
Chats with fellow divinely focused humans would start off promisingly enough; swapping trauma stories, shared practices, and a nature enthusiast induced commitment to sustainability. But before I knew it, alt-right ramblings were spilling out of their mouths, claiming hoax this and deep state that, all while co-opting the language of more leftist communities centered around holistic healing. I became more wary than ever, constantly on guard against any potential new person, lest I find myself admist anti-science neo-nazis accidently.
After a panic of reassessing my own practices to ensure I was decolonizing as much as possible, I found myself dissecting the step by step process that can lead people down this dizzying pipeline of problematic thinking. I found the dichotomous nature of holding such beliefs at the same time both fascinating and terrifying, and became an obsessive observer.
The terms “conspirituality” (A term was coined for the 2011 study “The Emergence of Conspirituality” by sociologists Charlotte Ward and David Voas) and “woo-anon”, (coined by Hayla Wong), might give you some idea as to what we’re discussing here: There is a dangerous right wing crossover happening in today’s new age spirituality spaces.
Under the guise of a lurking libertarian ethos, individuals in the health and wellness community are parroting messaging of the ultra conservative. Recognize the jargon used in these QAnon communities: “Take the red pill!” “Escape the matrix!” “Do your own research!”? This language has seeped into the spiritual lexicon at an alarming rate. What is dressed up as enlightenment is actually an elaborate mess of racist and sexist conspiratorial thinking.
Under the guise of a lurking libertarian ethos, individuals claiming to value compassion begin to parrot messaging of the right wing.
It’s possible to see the starting point similarities between the right wing and new age spiritual communities- they share a distrust of the government and Western medical practices, and celebrate marching to a nonconforming drum, right off the beaten path. It’s also clear that Covid opened a floodgate for the inevitable exposure of a culture and community which is built on white supremacist ideals.
As far as antivaxxers go, we all know their fight is not for bodily autonomy since there aren’t any freedom convoys on the front lines of abortion rallies. My constant queries to them tend to be along the lines of why choose to believe an imaginary evil over the pervasive and extensive real ones our society plainly faces?
Part of this phenomenon is an unwillingness within the white healing community to engage in politics at all. “I don’t discuss politics” is a refrain we’ve heard from defensive neofascists. Some argue that engaging in political debate is beneath their level of enlightenment. What it actually reflects is, at best, willful ignorance, or at worse, an enthusiastic embrace of the destructive societal frameworks which actively benefit people of privilege and power.
The argument that “(insert social justice cause) is a hoax created to divide us” is very effective in shutting down discourse. “Love and Light” is not only toxic positivity, but a dismissal of overtly oppressive structures that consistently disregard the most marginalized.
Something that drew me to spiritual spaces is how they look a little different for everyone, though not without a fair share of problems. It’s clear that certain issues are ingrained. Scammers, fatphobia, cultural appropriation, racism, and patriarchal divine gendered practices are baked into the wellness culture. As a result, the overlap between anti-vaxxers and any one claiming spiritual prowess was, and is, inevitable.
“Love and Light” is not only toxic positivity, but a dismissal of overtly oppressive structures that consistently disregard the most marginalized.
With the internet, the barrier to enter extremism has been lowered. We are all existing within our own echo chambers. If algorithms have taught us anything, it’s that our ideations are being fed back to users ten fold. However, the connection between the new age and the far right is not simply a result of the internet – neo-nazi’s have co-opted pagan ideologies and practices since before the world wide web even existed.
Instagrammer @abbiesr, a disinformation researcher, has extensively documented the more recent radicalization of these new age spaces. They can function like a cult, preying on people who are searching high and low for deep meaning and healing. When practitioners are also spewing heavy handed rejection of science and media altogether, facts fly out the window.
While I’m all for the inherent elusive nature of truth, when nothing can be proven or disproven you can become subject to an alternate reality of your own (or a Youtuber’s) creation. In the case of anyone QAnon adjacent, it’s one that allows people to feel like not only do they have the moral high ground, but also they have nothing to lose.
Community is defined by mutual aid and allyship– the concept that the well being of one affects all.
Above all else these ideals seem to stem from a deeply entrenched ethos of individualism and racism, aka America’s foundation in a nutshell, amiright? A growing lack of compassion and empathy translates into a culture that prioritizes personal needs over every damn one.
Sure, self-care is crucial for mental health and avoiding capitalism induced burnout. Spiritual healing is essential for processing generational trauma. But what about when ‘healing’ comes at the expense of your community and the oppression of others? We do not exist in a vacuum, and neither can our practice. We owe others kindness, consideration, and support.
About the Author
For a bit of background, Caitlin considers herself a part of the spiritual community within the spicy psychology camp. She enjoys employing her personal practice as a tool to holistically heal from trauma in a somatic sense. She spent much of her adult life working in the animal care and conservation field which she is still very passionate about through sustainable living and community efforts. Currently she is loving exploring more creative aspects of herself through work as a teacher, writer, and crafter. Her happy place is dissecting nuance and her preferred pastime is wading through the grey waters of wondering in many forms with her loving life partner, especially when it pertains to the interconnectedness of science, philosophy, politics, and spirituality.