The New Age Movement and Native American Spiritual Traditions: Appropriation and Use

Jeffrey S. Mettee, The College of Wooster


The New Age movement is a socio-spiritual movement that creates its unique spirituality from a collection of cultural traditions that are considered non-traditional. It has been determined that the main focus of the New Age movement has been manipulation of the healing potential of spiritual traditions for the transformation of the global community through the transformation of individuals. Investigation will reveal that the New Age movement uses alternative spiritual traditions and cultures outside the dominate culture as an escape into the healing potential of the exoticism of another culture and/or the past. In order to systematically discuss and analyze the motivation and structures of the New Age movement, we must develop a representational group of New Age author-practitioners. This paper focuses on three New Age author-practitioners that utilize the spiritual traditions of Native American cultures. This representational group, or "core group" consists of Thomas E. Mails, Michael Harner, and Sun Bear. Through the use of "shamanic-like" ceremonial systems that function as systems of spiritual healing and transformation, the core group demonstrates the New Age movement's desire for global transformation into a "new age" through individual transformation. The "shamanic-like" healing systems of the core group confirm the dependency of the New Age movement on the creativity and experimentation of New Age ritual participants. Through this creativity and experimentation the New Age movement reconstructs old traditions into systems of spiritual healing that foster a peaceful global community. Through the examination of the core group's writings, the philosophy and structure of the New Age movement can be understood. The New Age movement is involved in cultural borrowing. Specific to this paper, the borrowing of Native American traditions, forces questions of exploitation, commercialization, and the misuse of spiritual traditions by the entire New Age movement.


© Copyright 1993 Jeffrey S. Mettee