Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-08956-0_69-1
# Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Psychology and the New Age
Vanina Papalini*
Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios sobre Cultura y Sociedad, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas,
Córdoba, Argentine

Psychology; Psychoanalysis; Jung; Gestalt; Transpersonal psychology; Person-centered approach; Peak

Psychology is one of the most important disciplines upon which the New Age draws. As the focus of this
religiosity is fundamentally subjective, psychology provides a conception of the individual that is an
indispensable component of New Age cosmovision. The individual and his or her interior dimension is a
crucial point in the New Age’s obligatory macro–micro articulation; it is both the location of everyday
experience and the path to accessing the numinous. Given that many of the rituals and actions of New Age
religions tend toward the expansion of consciousness, psychic processes are a subject of inquiry and

The New Age tends to assimilate varied sources and authors in a fragmented manner, which facilitates the
integration of contradictory positions, recontextualized from one’s own perspective. This modality of
composition of an extensive vision, combined in a patchwork, is applied to New Age’s foundations,
including the numerous psychological theories that it absorbs, incorporated to different degree and in
different ways. In this sense, the theories or perspectives that have lent notions and concepts that are
partially revisited can be classified as indirect influences, while the theories that are more closely related
and combine fully with the New Age can be classified as direct influences.

Indirect Influences
Carl Jung’s Analytic Psychology
According to Paul Heelas (1996), Carl Jung is one of the three key theorists in the formation of the New
Age. Initially a disciple of Freud, he cut ties with his teacher in 1913. Jung explores and reformulates in a
heterodox way a set of notions distanced from the canon of psychoanalytic theory, establishing connections between the psyche and religious beliefs. His conception of spiritual meaning is broader than that of
institutionalized Western religion: Jung explores other sources of spirituality, such as Gnosticism,
alchemy, and Eastern religions. His ideas are refined and broadened through numerous trips outside of
Europe, where he came into contact with and studied the religions of the Pueblo Native Americans,
*Email: vaninapapalini@gmail.com
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happiness. but rather recognizes differences. molds with which human consciousness perceives the world and its processes. According to Tacey. Jung foresees the rise of the New Age as a compensatory archetypical current. The notion of “archetype” owes a debt to these travels: archetypes are transcultural. For David Tacey (2001). and The Heart of Man are works frequently read by New Agers. This book. classic Latin and Greek culture. Subjects such as love. the accent on self-reflection as a path to accessing one’s own unconscious. and the skepticism of religious beliefs oppose psychoanalysis to the New Age on various issues. His admiration for mandalas. drives. this political current of countercultural thought is not taken up in the reading of the New Age. Arabs. the possibility of using paths different from institutional religions to reach unity with divinity. However. The projection of Marcuse and Brown in Latin America is indirect and mediated by intellectual circles with little connection to the New Age. and symbolic forms that make them up. and a greater permissiveness toward the manifestation of impulses. the reenchantment of the world. as is the case of Herbert Marcuse. Orthodox Christians. and desire come from these sources.Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions DOI 10. as well as Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. condensing a set of unconscious processes in an image. Suzuki 1964). Jung makes an early outline of Western civilization that is compatible with the emergence of the New Age: he announces a resurgence of paganism. Marcuse and Brown are the ones that manifest opinions of open rejection of capitalism. religion. used habitually in the New Age. organic. The Art of Loving. emancipation. the emphasis on individual experience. the integration of opposing elements in a greater whole. Norman Brown. His trilogy Escape from Freedom (Fear of Freedom outside of North America). they are the identical psychic structures common to all the archaic heritage of humanity. and cults. forming part of the UNAM faculty from 1957 to 1961. come from thinkers who take up and recreate the legacy of Sigmund Freud from a Marxist perspective. psychologies far removed from the New Age. for its Spanish initials) in August 1957. without necessarily identifying its postulates. These authors. are classic themes that the New Age takes from Jung. delusions. However. expresses this ideal of totality to which he subscribes. the weakening of the superego. through the symbolism of dreams. harmonizing them in their interior. Of the three. Jung believes that individuation must necessarily resist identification with a collective psyche and that spirituality requires discipline that allows one to distance oneself from and not succumb to the ego and its caprices and that totality does not mean amorphous or chaotic indistinction. was born of a seminar on Zen Buddhism and psychoanalysis held under the auspices of the Department of Psychoanalysis of the College of Medicine of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM. the scarce consideration of the body in therapy.1007/978-3-319-08956-0_69-1 # Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015 various tropical African ethnicities. myths. caught up in the counterculture of the 1960s. and the diverse religions of India. criticism of consumerism. the critical nature of psychoanalysis. as well as between the worship of Buddha and Christ. which is accessible only in a derivative manner. in which he presents the ideas of Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki and his own synthesis. The “trip” to exotic worlds and the tracing of parallels among world religions and rituals. the ascent of the principle of the feminine. the unconscious. Freudo-Marxist Psychology A set of notions of psychoanalytic origin. the reception of the New Age in Latin America varies in function of the social diffusion Page 2 of 6 . while Fromm has a larger following that is decisively associated with the beginnings of the New Age in Latin America. which preserve the difference of the geometric. indirectly form a part of the neo-Freudian New Age platform. The privilege given to words as well as to rationalization. in the city of Cuernavaca. Psychoanalysis and Anti-psychiatry Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis are. repression. alienation. self-esteem. This leads to postulating the collective unconscious. as Fromm states in the prologue. and Erich Fromm (Fromm. Fromm develops an intense activity in Mexico. in principle.

while in Argentina it is linked to the social sciences. Unification and integration are represented by the yin-yang symbol. who also receives influences from Martin Bubber. dissolving limits (Williams 2006). This notion of totality is embraced by the New Age. Gestalt psychology is introduced to Peru. and Argentina. who participates in the Esalen Institute. and aesthetic vanguards. making up a leftist and progressive intellectual space open to new tendencies.Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions DOI 10. and the abuse of psychopharmaceuticals. Chile) and Francisco Hunneus (founder of the Cuatro Vientos publishing company. From Chile. psychoanalysis puts into circulation a vocabulary and makes familiar a code for understanding subjective processes (Plotkin 2001) which favor the later introduction of the New Age. Around 1960. educational groups interested in deepening their knowledge of Gestalt theory come together. Even during the military dictatorships. contact them and experience them. This new version of Gestalt theory is introduced early in Chile. Wolfgang Köhler. New Age Gestalt proposes transcending polarities. But the greatest changes occur beginning with his taking up residence in California. Direct Influences Gestalt Gestalt psychology begins in Germany in the early twentieth century and includes among its principle exponents Max Wertheimer. From this perspective. through Carlos Naranjo. which questions the confinement of the mentally ill. in a certain sense. the Gestalt totality is coincident with the New Age notion of holism. and phenomenology. The version most disseminated in Latin America comes from its interweaving with the New Age. and Kurt Koffka. and psychologization (Russo 2004). On the other hand. received by the educated urban middle class. as a unified whole. The makeup of a “psychoanalytic culture. This reception is accompanied by a movement or circulation of ideas that propagates structuralism. has properties that cannot be derived from the sum of the parts. facilitates the propagation of the New Age: Argentina and Brazil. they share the same cultural telos and the same target: modernization. allows for an understanding of everyday situations from the point of view of the emotions or the internal world. Gestalt refers to a configuration or totality that. There are two cases in Latin America where the diffusion of psychoanalysis precedes and. Kurt Lewin. in Argentina it is received in the heart of the psychoanalytic community. in 1964 (Velázquez 2001). the diffusion of Freudian psychoanalytic theory begins in the early twentieth century and solidifies in the second half (Visacovsky 2009). Marxism. the use of aggressive techniques such as electroshock. which translates and publishes Gestalt theory). individualization. In these countries. plays with the differences and confusions between figure and ground. which adds to this theory the perception of a spiritual dimension: awareness is the point where both meet (Koening 2007). Inspired by the New Age. the beginning of the recreation of Gestalt psychology occurs with the association of Perls with the Esalen Institute. Gestalt psychology enters into the official educational programs for psychiatry and psychology in various Latin American countries. existentialism. The objective is to reach greater levels of development and stimulate personal growth through awareness cultivation. In 1951. Around 1990. as. establishing their complementarity based on a process of dialectic interaction. His work in Chile is continued by Adriana Schnake (who in 1980 founds the Anchimalen Institute on the Island of Chiloe. which seeks to recognize oppositions. as a theory of perception. Gestalt psychology. which opens the way for the reception of the New Age in a manner that is more therapeutic than religious.1007/978-3-319-08956-0_69-1 # Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015 of psychoanalysis. the “dark side” or the “shadow” (according to Jung). Page 3 of 6 . Brazil. he writes Gestalt Therapy together with Paul Goodman and Ralph Hefferline.” which in Brazil is linked to the health sciences. existentialism. One of the most important convergences of Gestalt psychology with the New Age is the work of Friedrich Perls. these same countries warmly embrace the antipsychiatry movement. on one hand.

Capturing the experience implies living it as a somatic. and in 1969 opens the Center for Studies of the Person. oriented toward the totality of a person and underlining the Page 4 of 6 . The concept of person upon which it is based is considered proactive. Maslow is interested in phenomena of supernatural consciousness not observed by psychology. Focusing on the ego results in a sensation of being separated from the environment that we interact with. In contrast. or mystic searching. Transpersonal Psychology Transpersonal psychology also comes out of the Esalen laboratory. especially among Latin American Jesuits. to pay reverence to an organism’s natural processes. where there are eminent representatives such as Victoria Moreira and Elias Boanain Jr. for its Spanish initials). meditation. – Trust in nature: This drives one to trust in the capacity of organisms to self-regulate. credos. it does not emphasize professional interpretation. but rather the patient’s lived experience (Rogers 1972). rituals. Humanist Psychology Humanist psychology or the person-centered approach. Humanist psychology also undergoes transformations beginning with Rogers’ participation in the Esalen Institute. avoiding the tendency for abstraction and judgment. A peculiarity of this psychology is the adhesion that it achieves in Catholic circles. California. From a new perspective. O’Neill 2005). His approach postulates a multidimensional perspective. This is what peak experiences are about: they are ways of reaching a direct understanding of the experience of the sacred. capable of taking one’s own life in one’s own hands. who begins with a criticism of behaviorism (which he criticizes because it derives the functioning of the human psyche from animal behavior). privilege is given to a direct encounter with the divine or numinous (esoteric spirituality). based on the dissemination and institutionalization achieved by Juan Lafargue. This focus also enjoys great development in Brazil. they seek to expand the sense of personal identity to include that which is beyond it and which the person lacks in order to favor connection. This position is divided in some other precepts (Ingersoll. of psychoanalysis (which he criticizes for basing its psychotherapy on verbal strategies through which it explores the individual’s history and unconscious motivation). is born in the field of clinical psychology.” The disassociation of the present leads to illnesses. whose principle referent is Carl Rogers. One of the principle figures is Abraham Maslow. in contrast to other psychotherapies. cognitive. not intellectualizing it. and to do so injunctions designed to bring about particular experiences are used. with a natural tendency to self-actualization. Pablo Morales. and images of divinity. The UIA is the first university in the world to include humanist psychology in its programs and even implements a master’s program in human development under this inspiration. O’Neill 2005): – Direct pointing: This is participating in the experience. avoiding the tendency to speculate about the future or remember the past. and emotional totality. and its incorporation in the field of education (Villegas Besora 1986). and of humanist psychology. It is “being in one’s own body. These experiences are sometimes induced through ritual use of psychoactive substances. Humanist psychology is based on an empathic attitude and the development of listening. dogmas. Humanist psychology lays down strong foundations in the Ibero-American University of Mexico (UIA. – Here-and-now orientation: This refers to existing in the current moment. sharing with other currents many of the aspects developed in the relation Gestalt-New Age (Ingersoll. later he moves to La Jolla.Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions DOI 10. In this way. and Ana Maria Gonzalez Garza.1007/978-3-319-08956-0_69-1 # Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015 The accent placed on experience leads to dismissing acquired beliefs (exoteric spirituality) fixed on external forms. it is about autonomous individuals full of potential and capabilities.

1007/978-3-319-08956-0_69-1 # Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015 capacity – unique to human beings – of obtaining for themselves self-realization and the development of their potential. the spiritual dimension is reached and human potential is developed. 1st edn. which denounces its pagan character and the use of psychoactive substances. Paidós. and the Badaracco Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Argentina. with syncretism with beliefs and therapies of native peoples (worship of Pachamama. neo-shamanism. New York Velázquez LF (2001) Terapia Gestáltica de Freidrich Solomon Perls. Pre-personal. curing. or Mesoamerican religions.1):5–7 Paul H (1996) The new age movement. which are achieved through the shamanic path.Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions DOI 10. México D F Grof S (2008) Brief history of transpersonal psychology. and in the processes developed by patients in the here and now. mystic trances. and transpersonal instances are distinguished. J Humanist Psychol 8:77–78 Tacey D (2001) Jung and the new age. There are courses in transpersonal psychology in the Anthropological University of Guadalajara. the interconnection of the psyche and the body. Anuario de Psicología 34:7–46 Page 5 of 6 . theory. Through these experiences that lead to unordinary states of consciousness. espiritualidade e psiquiatria: uma nova era na atenção à saúde mental. and evolving. a spiritual reality. Sage. Psychotherapeutic action is associated with peak experiences. Other thinkers contribute to this school. Mnemosine 1:38–43 Sutich AJ (1968) Transpersonal psychology: an emerging force. Mexico. Toman SM (eds) Gestalt therapy: history. Psicología desde el Caribe 7:130–137 Villegas Besora M (1986) La psicología humanista: historia. The Latin American New Age exhibits certain peculiarities in the way in which peak experiences are proposed. the use of synthetic hallucinogens or natural hallucinogens belonging to Amazonian. Brunner-Routledge. ritual use of peyote) producing a peculiar synthesis that includes the thesis of transpersonal psychology. or psychedelic therapy. Thousand Oaks. Fondo de Cultura Económica. such as Roberto Assagioli. and Anthony Sutich (Grof 2008. O’Neill B (2005) Gestalt therapy and spirituality. and whose potential is heuristic. Sutich 1968). and practice. Suzuki DT (1964) Budismo zen y psicoanálisis. Buenos Aires Russo J (2004) Uma leitura antropológica do mundo “psi”. The psychotherapy proposed is based on the direct expression of emotions. In: Woldt AL. Andean. Stanford Rogers C (1972) El proceso de convertirse en persona. pp 133–150 Koening HG (2007) Religião. concepto y método. Int J Transpersonal Studies 27:46–54 Ingersoll RE. Oxford Plotkin M (2001) Freud in the Pampas: the emergence and development of a psychoanalitic culture in Argentina. Ken Wilber. Cross-References ▶ Counterculture ▶ Holism ▶ New Age and Native Spirituality ▶ Psychoactive Substances References Fromm E. In transpersonal instances. a connection is produced with a reality that is larger and more significant. Blackwell. This perspective has been attacked in Latin America by the Catholic Church. personal. Saint Daime. Stanislav Grof. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica 34(supl. Stanford University Press.

1007/978-3-319-08956-0_69-1 # Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015 Visacovsky S (2009) La constitución de un sentido práctico del malestar cotidiano y el lugar del psicoanálisis en la Argentina.Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions DOI 10. Cuicuilco 45:51–79 Williams L (2006) Spirituality and gestalt: a gestalt-transpersonal perspective. Gestalt Rev 10(1):6–21 Page 6 of 6 .