A few seasons ago the new Twilight Zone series premiered with an episode titled "Word Play." It was about a man who woke up to find that a few key words had changed in meaning. For example, his boss asked him if he was ready to go to "dinosaur" instead "lunch." Obviously, the many became very perplexed as common words with definite meanings were substituted for other words with quite different meanings.
It often appears as if I have entered "The Twilight Zone" every time I talk with or read the literature of people associated with the "New Age." Terms that have quite specific meanings are often carelessly bandied about with the result that the message is either gibberish to someone who knows the proper usage of the terms or profound, esoteric, and sublime to those who do not.
An example: One of the local morning television talk shows recently featured a woman who works with crystals. She wore a large quartz crystal that she claimed liberated a "large magnetic field" from her within her body that enabled her to give "psychic"readings. How did she know that her field was "magnetic"? Did she attract iron objects? Did nails, tacks, and paper clips fly up from the floor? And when you think about it, why would a "magnetic field" help with psychic readings.
Another interesting example occurred when I appeared on a local television talk show to discuss various New Age concepts with a well-known parapsychologist and author of several popular books on psychic phenomena, ghosts, and other strange and seemingly inexplicable happenings. (The host emphasized that fact that the parapsychologist had a doctorate, but I learned later that the doctorate was in special education.) During the show, the parapsychologist claimed that he had demonstrated in his "laboratory research" that an unknown force or forces were at play in the universe and behind many psychic events. I decided to ask him a simple question: "Can you name the four known forces in the universe? His puzzled response was slow in coming: "Friction??" His incorrect response made me wonder how he could decide that something was outside this world before he first really understood or ruled out what was in this world.
Another example comes from a "New Age" column published a short while ago in the Santa Monica News: "This planet has been slumbering for eons and with the inception of higher energy frequencies is about to awaken in terms of consciousness and spirituality." Note these terms, "higher energy frequencies." At least we know that the message will not come via radio or television, which operate at low energy frequencies.
Another amusing example is brought to us by Vortex Industries, Inc. Vortex Industries manufactures "Crystal Vortex Colliadal Mineral Concentrate." According to the promotional literature "it is now known that there are at least five areas on Earth where people live naturally to 100 or more years while maintaining perfect health. In all these areas, the local inhabitants claim that it is their "special" water that is the secret of their prolonged youth. These areas include:
1. Hunzaland in Tibet 2. The County of Georgia in Russia 3. A remote valley in outer Mongolia 4. The Vilcabamba mountains in Ecuador 5.. A hidden Valley in the mountains of Peru
According to Vortex's leaflet it took "24 years of extensive research" to find out what makes this water so special: 1. It "comes from ice blue glaciers"; 2. "The water has a surface tension of 68 while ordinary water has a surface tension of 73."
But, don't despair, because you don't have to fly to Hunzaland in Tibet or rediscover that "hidden valley" in the mountains of Peru, because the good folds at the Flagstaff, Arizona, plant of Vortex Industries will sell you this special energy elixir at the nominal price of $15 per 1.25-ounce bottle. (No doubt they discovered through their 24 years of extensive research that you can change the surface tension of water by adding only a few drops of soap!) In any case, if the good folds at Vortex Industries use this elixir, which no doubt they do, I wonder what sort of retirement plan they have for those people who never get past their prime?
I believe that there are three reasons why there is so much gobbledygook in the "New Age."
First, the technique of using technical jargon in a popular format, whether the words are contained in the dictionary or freshly coined, is used for the express purpose of impressing or intimidating people.
Second, for many people obscurity equals profundity. For example, from the same "New Age" column: "Masters of Limitation and Masters of Divination use the same creative force to manifest their realities, however, one moves in a downward spiral and the later moves in an upward spiral, each increasing the resonant vibration inherent in them." What can this possibly mean?
Third, a vast amount of "New Age" literature misappropriates scientific jargon, i.e., electromagnetic, frequencies, energy fields, multi- or extra dimensional spacetime, to give the impression of scientific accuracy and precision.
The misuse of scientific language and concepts by the "New Age" movement reminds one (to borrow an analogy by the late physicist Richard Feynman) of the tribal natives in New Guinea who watched American soldiers build runways and control towers which enabled strange and magical objects to land from the sky that brought food and material wealth. After the soldiers left, the natives tried to recall the cargo planes. The natives built runways, placed bonfires along the strip for landing lights, and constructed control towers out of bamboo and grass. The cargo cult even fashioned airplanes out of grass in the hopes of luring the cargo back.
They built the structure, it looked right to them, but the planes never landed! In the same way, the "New Age" movement has built a strictly verbal structure that has little or no relationship to reality; hence, one can hold out little hope that their planes or "multi-dimensional" spacecrafts will land.