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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The social geography of new age spirituality in Vancouver Mills, Colin Ivor


It was expected that by the end of the twentieth-century, due to human achievement and technology, religion would be a mere fading memory in the minds and the history books of modernized western people. This has been expressed through the secularization thesis, which describes a “disenchantment” of western culture. Over the last ten years, however, there has been a growing movement seeking to re-enchant this culture by exploring and reconsidering religion, myth and spirituality. One of the most powerful expressions of this is popularly referred to as the New Age Movement. This thesis looks at the relationship between New Age and secularization theory, examining the reasons for an apparent turn away from secularization. By using Jacques Ellul’s interpretation of the history of the sacred, this thesis proposes that far from being a time of secularization, modernism ushered in an era where the sacred canopy of Christianity was replaced by a new sacred expression in the form of science and technology. In recent years, however, the perceived failure of modernism has generated a search for a new set of sacred expressions in western society. New Age and postmodernism are vehicles which people are using to initiate this search. Currently both phenomena are looking to three sources in order to recover meaning and control over life: the past and the distant, nature and the self. The theoretical challenge New Age and postmodernism represents to the secularization thesis is made concrete in the geography of the New Age Movement. This thesis makes a physical connection between the New Age and areas of gentrification, which contradicts the assumptions of the secularization thesis by proving that an area which should be highly secularized is in fact a place of spiritual exploration.

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