How I Survived the New Age

Medieval illustration for Gerry Maguire Thompson's blog

Do you remember when New-Agey stuff was all the rage?  I remember it all right. I had the time of my life – but it was weird.

I happened to be in California during those times – an excellent karmic choice, as it turned out; wild and wacky and wonderful. I was on a big quest: looking for something, only I didn’t know what: the point of life, possibly. I tried everything new-agey: I received every healing, got every therapy, followed every guru, pursued every spiritual path I could find – which was a lot.

I started with macrobiotics – a kind of eating disorder. Everyone was obsessed with food and organ health and brown rice and miso. But sexually it was amazing. There were masses of young women who were full of lusty vitality, and very few young men, all of whom seemed to be weak and listless. The women only wanted to be with macrobiotic men, because they were ‘pure’. I was way more popular than I deserved to be I’d never experienced anything like it before and have never done since, as it turned out. It was great while it lasted.

I did the original ‘est’ training – which became the basis of later programmes such as The Forum and Landmark training – and the original was extremely harsh. They wouldn’t let you visit the bathroom because you might be trying to get away from some of the ‘stuff’ that was ‘coming up’ for you in the training. They basically took everybody apart emotionally but didn’t put you back together again so that you’d have to keep doing more courses. But am I bitter? Yes, probably.

I underwent healing with crystals and healing with plant spirits, healing with cabbages and healing with dolphins. I attended endless workshops on prosperity; all cost over $500 and were run by people with names like Anna Bundance, and none of them worked. For a while I attended meetings of a Jewish Quaker group; instead of the usual Quaker model where everyone is quiet and occasionally someone will say something, in this case everyone talked at once except for one person who would sit in the corner and silently sulk.

I studied under many spiritual figures, culminating in ten years apprenticeship with a Tibetan mystic who called himself Lobsang Soochong. At the end of the training he sent me out into the world to carry out his teachings with the name of Shiva Chikkentikkenanda; then he spontaneously exploded.

I learned that new-agers had to use a completely unique vocabulary: a whole new body of jargon. You had to sound incredibly precious and intensely self-absorbed, and everything people said had a different meaning from normal. “I hear what you’re saying”, for instance, actually meant “I completely disagree.” When people said “Thank you for sharing that” they really meant to say that they couldn’t get a word in edgeways. And when someone said to you “I like where you’re coming from”, that meant they wanted to sleep with you. I used that one a lot.

I also learned the new age art of the affirmation, which means trying to change your whole life by endlessly repeating statements about yourself rather than actually doing something about it. The affirmation was invented by an author called Anita De Lujonne. She taught that the key to designing a good affirmation was using words like ‘abundant’, ‘flow’, ‘joy’, ‘ease’, ‘now’ and especially ‘me’. My favourite affirmation was a cure for constipation: “Abundant poos flow from me now, with joy and ease”. That one really did seem to work. I had to be careful when I used it – especially when on a date.

Speaking of which, I discovered a whole vocabulary dedicated to new age dating, especially prevalent in California. So for instance if you were in the check-out line at the Biodynamic Organic Vegetable Superstore and you saw someone you liked, you might start a conversation by saying something like “Do you manifest here often?” Once you got chatting you might ask if they’d like to be your partner at the drop-in tantric sex class that evening. Or just come straight out and tell them their base chakra energy seems a bit stuck, and would they like some help unblocking it? Bizarrely, this sort of thing worked. More than once I received such forward responses as “Is that a crystal in your pocket or are you pleased to see me?”

There was even a set of stock phrases for declining a sexual advance. If you didn’t fancy the proposer you might reply to their invitation with something like “I’m sorry, I can’t do tonight; I’m having an out-of-body experience.” Or you just tell them that you’re on a sex fast for the next three months.

The chat-up line I found most effective when I found someone attractive was “Excuse me, but you seem very familiar. Have we met before?” They’d invariably reply that they didn’t think so. I would continue “That’s strange, you seem so very familiar…Wait a minute, I remember now. We were married in a past life, but the relationship was tragically never consummated…. But maybe it’s not too late to do something about that now?” Strangely, this nearly always worked ; California girls would laugh and reply to the effect “Hey, I know you’re making that up, but why not?” Details didn’t always work out as planned, though – many vegans thought it unethical to have oral sex.

When my money eventually ran out, I started to wonder how I could make a living through my own new age offerings. I started an event called the Mind Body Wallet Festival; I booked speakers, exhibitors, gurus, therapists and assorted charlatans. It was a huge success, and made me a lot of money, always culminating in a huge combined barbecue and fire-walk.

Next I became a Feng Shui consultant, specialising in serving rich female clients having difficulty attracting and holding on to sexual partners. I’d get them to do stuff like growing pussy willow in their front garden, and keeping a potted venus fly-trap plant in the bedroom. The more people paid, the happier they seemed to be. Then I gave counselling sessions where I channelled guidance from a Mesopotamian warlord reincarnated as an angry traffic warlord in downtown LA.  My most successful and satisfying venture, though, was running workshops and offering one to one consultation on The Willie As A Healing Tool. It’s so neat when you can combine business and pleasure in one activity.

Probably my most dramatic new-age experience came when I was at a very low emotional and energetic point. I was told that my chakras were “effectively f****d”, especially the heart, throat, hara and anal chakras. The good news was that I go on a waiting list for a chakra transplant. It was my very good karma that, just at this point, a set of those very chakras became available for transplant, after a leading Californian NLP Master had perished in a ghastly fire-walking tragedy. Chakras, it seems, keep working for quite a while after death.

The quadruple transplant operation was successful and I was restored to energetic and emotional health. I did, however, notice certain NLP-related side effects showing up in my professional life. I immediately began to inordinate confidence and incredibly high self-esteem; I found myself running half-day workshops in which participants could gain Mastery in anything at all; I believed that I could achieve anything I wanted by simply changing my name using appropriate words (I opted for Gerry Amazing Powerful Wealthy Attractive Importance); and I had an irresistible urge to triple my professional feels overnight and continue increasing them on a monthly basis. It was a very expensive operation, but I ended up way better off.  So that’s all good. What a shame the New Age era is over….

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