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The New Age and Spiritual Marketplace

by E. M. Levy

SpiritualityAs someone who was an early adopter of meditation, organic food, and yoga postures I didn't know it was possible for a human being to do, I have an enduring interest in this field of writing and publishing. I use the word marketplace somewhat ironically, since the intention behind New Age spirituality seems so far from the impulse to sell anything, let alone oneself or one's book. To avoid mistakes and set the right tone in this market, direct experience really matters.

For ten years, I was editor and then managing editor of a monthly magazine focused on esoteric spiritual traditions, both Eastern and Western. Around our small conference table, my colleagues and I would discuss the theme of each month's issue—The Self, Beauty, The Realm of the Heart, Rumi, Good Company, Speaking the Truth, Selfless Service, and dozens of other great themes of spirituality. We grounded ourselves in all the nuances of these topics. That experience has served me well as an editor in this field, whether I'm editing a book about dreams or one on how to use the principles of Zen in project management. My own personal practice also helped me avoid some of the pitfalls of writing in this genre. For example, while it's obvious that we create our own universe, a favorite New Age tenet, it's also obvious that we don't! How you handle a paradox like this is important, and affects the credibility of a work. There are other challenges. How do you write about secularized teachings and practices, once rooted firmly in religious traditions, in a way that preserves their vitality? When mindfulness becomes another a tool to increase productivity, what, if anything, is lost?

I welcome the penetration of New Age ideas and spirituality into the larger culture. As an editor who is familiar with the fields from which these teaching emerged, I'm deeply interested in how to present them with what the Buddhists call "skillful means."