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In The Dark 

In the late 1980s I was studying A Course in Miracles as a student at a community in New Jersey called Miracle Manor. This was my first immersion in New Age thinking, in a time when the New Age was all the rage.

Up until then, my inner pursuits had been directed not at "spirituality" but rather in search of self-knowledge and self-development. I wasn't interested in "isms," but rather in ideas that would help me grow into the person I wanted to be and have better relationships. One of my favorite books from this genre as a teenager was Notes to Myself: My Struggle to Become a Person by Hugh Prather.

I spent a year at Miracle Manor, and toward the end of that year I was ready to do a satire on the New Age. Part of how I relate to the world is through comedy. April Fool's Day is my favorite holiday, and any day of the year can qualify.

My idea for my spoof on spirituality was a two-sided newspaper. Held one way, it would be the New Age News. Held the other way, it would be the Tribulation Tribune.

The New Age was full of sweetness and starlight, and promises of global enlightenment and the notion of people waking up and being kinder to one another. In the New Age, the obsession with materialism would start to abate, we would be less competitive, become motivated by love, and the purpose of the world would be healing. Everyone would eat tofu loaf.

Some of the predictions and prophesies of the time were rather exuberant. One favorite book from those days was The Starseed Transmissions by someone who wrote under the pen name Raphael. That later turned out to be Ken Carey. The Starseed Transmissions was initially circulated as a Xerox copy of a typescript that had passed through the hands of someone named Jean Houston (at one time I had a copy of that document). Houston, once very well known, describes herself as a "scholar, philosopher and researcher in Human Capacities," and "one of the foremost visionary thinkers and doers of our time." Her endorsement gave Carey's book great credibility. It then appeared as a paperback. Originally, my friend Virginia Lepley read the whole thing to me on the phone from a tattered copy that looked like it had passed through 50 pairs of hands.

Chapter 9 is called "Islands of the Future." It begins, "As you reorient toward the new way of being in the world, you will be drawn to centers where the vibrational atmosphere is more conducive to a healthy state of function. These centers will represent the focal points around which the organs of Planetary Being will form.

"They will be, in a sense, islands of the future in a sea of the past. Within their vibrational field, the New Age will blossom and spread organically to cover the Earth. These will be the first beachheads secured by the approaching forces, the points of entry through which the healing energies of transformation will be channeled. All of those centers will work together to prepare the human species for its collective awakening."

As for those approaching forces referenced in the quotation above, I forgot to mention that the full title of the book is The Starseed Transmissions: An Extraterrestrial Report. In this case the ETs were supposed to be angelic beings whose only desire was to help us be happy and enlightened. Those ETs would have been courteous to mention that if you're starting a New Age center, make sure your landlord isn't a sociopath and that you have a good accountant.

Now for the other side of the story—about flipping my proposed newspaper over, where it could be read as the Tribulation Tribune. The forthcoming tribulation period was such a common topic of conversation at Miracle Manor that it was referred to as "the trib."

The main source of 411 on the trib were the channelings of Edgar Cayce. I never read much of that stuff but some of the hardcore cases at Miracle Manor certainly had.

Apparently there was going to be a tribulation period, either right before the New Age, or at the same time. It would come with Earth changes. Those words went around a lot. That meant things like flooding, wildfires, earthquakes, economic disasters, famines, wars and so on. This was a little scary, since at the time the USSR and the USA had thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at one another -- and were open and mortal enemies. It was also just a year or so after the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in Ukraine. The terms climate change and global warming did not exist; those were the days of "a hole in the ozone layer."

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  • Eric Francis Coppolino reflects on New Age thinking and enlightenment.

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