One of our RPE first year students visited a New-Age fair – and kindly wrote up her experiences for the blog: thanks SK… Here is her personal account:
To gain an insight into the ever-changing ‘New Age’ scene I decided to attend a Mind, Body and Spirit event in Manchester earlier this month. Set in a beautiful, historic Monastery located in the middle of an industrial area, I arrived early to find the 500+ car park already full and guarded by men in fluorescent jackets. Finding a side street to park in I followed the crowds to the Monastery and was shocked at the size of the queue to pay on the door. Luckily I’d pre-booked my entry ticket and sidled past the queue to the back door. I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of people who were in attendance were of a certain…caliber; a certain age, gender and societal class, all searching for a similar thing. A coincidence maybe but I wasn’t convinced.Greeted by a man thrusting leaflets into my hands whilst explaining an itinerary of the numerous workshops taking place, I followed the herd into the main part of the Monastery. The room was filled with exhibitors and stalls promoting ‘New Age’ therapies, products and techniques and I found myself overwhelmed. Without any expectations I wandered aimlessly and moved with the flow looking at the beautiful ornaments, jewellery and sparkly things for sale.There were different types of massages on offer, including Reiki (which was the only one I’d previously heard of), claiming to reduce stress and make for a calmer, less hectic life. One masseuse said that he was a ‘Guru’ and the price for a 20-minute massage with him was noticeably more than others who offered what looked like the same service.A therapy that centered around hundreds of coloured bottles standing on a shelf baffled me and was told that whichever one I was drawn to was the ‘special one’. Why it was special I had no idea and I doubt I was ‘drawn’ to it, I merely liked the pink colour.Crystal healing stalls were popular amongst the crowds alongside little knick-knacks and keepsakes including pocket-angels to keep you safe and worry dolls to disperse your worries.There was a heavy Eastern influence and I saw many Buddha figures and singing bowls for sale which seemed to enforce the idea that ‘New Age’ was a mixture of established religions as opposed to a new concept. I felt slightly uncomfortable with this and was disheartened by the amount of Pagan tokens that were amongst it all. There was a fine line between ‘New Age’ and Paganism and I couldn’t help but feel the line was getting very blurred. I consider Paganism an actual religion and ‘New Age’ appeared to be a ‘counterfeit’ version of it, almost disregarding its’ validity.Stereotypical Mediums, psychics, tarot readers, astrologers, palm readers flooded the Monastery, all glammed up looking like Z-list celebs. For a smallfee (note: emphasis on ‘small’) you could have a reading. The cheapest I saw was £40 for a 30-minute session. Need I say more? Whilst walking past one particular woman, I heard her say to her customer, “you know a woman with a cat, possibly black”. At this point, my inner-cynicism was outwardly shown with a shake of my head in dismay.Posters and banners were all over the place all saying where a particular psychic or medium had been featured, for example, “As seen on TV” or “Featured in ‘Take a Break’ magazine”. This raised my suspicions once again because it was as though they had to justify themselves for being there before anyone could question their validity.It was a brilliant experience and I had a wonderful time but I must admit instead of enforcing the ‘New Age’ concept as a religion or certified, genuine way of life, I saw it to be a moneymaking idea, preying on the same type of vulnerable person who is searching for something more in their unsatisfactory life. As a placebo though I believe that what ‘New Age’ offers can and does work, positive thinking and all that jazz. However it’s slightly depressing to think that the whole business focuses on the negative side of life; everything is rubbish, why is my life like this, where can I get the answers, by doing this my life will be better. The lack of originality annoyed me slightly as everything was a mash up of Paganism, Hinduism and Buddhism mixed with 1960’s hippy-culture and a dash of Mystic Meg.