Authors meet Critics: “New Age Spirituality”

Following from our interview on Monday with Ingvild Gilhus, today’s podcast presents an “authors meet critics” session on the new edited volume by Ingvild Gilhus and Steven Sutcliffe, New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion. This was recorded at the University of Edinburgh at the launch of the book, and features the editors, Steven Sutcliffe and Ingvild Gilhus, and critics Bettina Schmidt, Marion Bowman and David Robertson, and was ably hosted by Afe Adogame.

Steven Sutcliffe introduces the book, describing the plan to curate a volume which approaches empirical research into “New Age” religiosity through broader “theories of religion”. As Gilhus then suggests, our theoretical positions are impoverished if they don’t address “religion” in both classical and modern contexts.

Marion Bowman takes this up in her response, which addresses the similarity between this project and her own “vernacular religion” project. Bettina Schmidt addresses this disconnect between theories of popular and institutionalised religion from a anthropological point of view, pointing out that many phenomena have been removed from sociological view due to their perceived marginality, and because they don’t offer a clear box to be ticked in censuses. Finally, David Robertson critiques how the critique of “New Age” is positioned within academic, practitioner and popular discourses, and how it may reinforce, despite itself, the very categories it seeks to dissolve.

For anyone interested in New Age, the intersection between category formation – and the practicalities and politics of challenging them – this episode will be essential listening.

2 replies
  1. Avatar
    Scott says:

    Hi David: Great topic, New Age. I’m a former monk of 14 years with Self-Realization Fellowship Monastic Order, an East-West new age meditation – Church of all Religions. I’m atheist now and am independently researching “why westerners and Christians deconvert to Eastern meditation and mysticism and accept new age spirituality; and why new age before abandoning religion altogether?”

    Is thIs book in podcast available in US ? So you have any other recommendations for my research into this topic, my questions?

    I share your podcast with my social network and reference periodically on my blog. I appreciate your work! Though I’m a lay, aspiring independent scholar. Thanks, Scott

    • Avatar
      David Robertson says:

      Hi Scott. Thanks for supporting the podcast!

      I don’t think there’s a specific US edition at this point, but you could certainly order it through amazon and pay the extra shipping. It’s pretty cheap in paperback. Other books worth investigating would be Sutcliffe’s monograph, Children of the New Age, Darren Kemps “Christaquarians”, Hanegraaff’s “New Age Religion and Western Culture”, and Dominic Corrywright’s “Theoretical and Empirical Investigations into New Age Spirituality”.

      Although I think you may have phrased it a little polemically, I think your topic is interesting. However, is it always the case? I certainly know of individuals who have gone in the opposite direction, into New Age and then onto Buddhism or Christianity.


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