Close your eyes, and envision a glowing crystal suspended in infinite space. Now breathe in slowly, counting backwards from 10. Energy pulses along the interstices of the crystal. Exhale, and imagine a second crystal, precisely like the first - then a dozen, a hundred, 100,000 crystals multiplying into an infinite void. And 100,000 dream catchers. And semiprecious stones inscribed with chakras. And 'Coexist' bumper stickers, Alex Grey posters, Tibetan prayer flags, wellness magnets, and ionising Himalayan salt lamps.

Now open your eyes and imagine how much they all cost.

It's easy to scoff at the totemic kitsch of the New Age movement. But it's impossible to deny its importance, both as an economic force and as a cultural template, a way of approaching the world. The New Age is a powerful mixture of mass-market mysticism and idealistic yearning. It's also, arguably, our era's most popular ex novo spiritual movement, winning adherents with a blend of ancient wisdom traditions, post-Enlightenment mysticism and contemporary globalisation that is as nebulous as it is heady. ...[Continue reading on Aeon Magazine]