Eminent Academic launches new book - ‘The New Age in the Modern West’


Dr Nicholas Campion, a distinguished academic from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David has will today launch his latest work - ‘The New Age in the Modern West: Counterculture, Utopia and Prophecy from the Late Eighteenth Century to the Present Day.’  Theevent will be held at the Founders’ Library at the University’s Lampeter campus and will start at 4pm.  

A senior lecturer in the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology and Director of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, Dr Campion’s latest publication focuses on New Age Culture and traces New Age ideas back to ancient cosmology, questioning the concepts of the Enlightenment and the theory of progress.

New Age culture is generally regarded as a modern manifestation of Western millenarianism - a concept built around the expectation of an imminent historical crisis followed by the inauguration of a golden age which occupies a key place in the history of Western ideas. The New Age in the Modern West argues that New Age culture is part of a family of ideas, including utopianism, which construct alternative futures and drive revolutionary change. 

This book treats New Age ideas as a mainstream part of western culture rather than as fringe and challenges the idea that New Age thought is a post 1960s phenomenon, arguing it has direct 19th century antecedents and is part of a much longer history of millennial and utopian prophecy.  Nicholas Campion also discusses the notion that New Age ideas should be understood in their political context.

“I argue that New Age ideas provide an alternative to socialism, one in which the overthrow of the nation state and capitalism results from personal, inner change, rather than a direct challenge to the state,” says Dr Campion . “In New Age ideology self-transformation rather than political revolution will usher in the new phase of history,” he adds.

The book also challenges conventional notions of historical periods such as the Enlightenment and the Sixties.

“The book questions the common belief that the Sixties was a unique, mythical, period which had a defined beginning and end and was characterised as a time of peace and love,” continues Dr Campion. 

“Instead, I argue that the decade’s utopian features were not new, and continued into the 1970s and beyond.  In particular I question the idea of a single Sixties counter-culture and instead consider the diversity of youth culture. I challenge the notion of the existence of peace and love culture, arguing that it was little more than a media construct. I emphasise the dark side of psychedelic culture and its descent from ideas that, in order for humanity to be transformed, it has to encounter Hell as well as Heaven.”

An important book for anyone interested in countercultural and revolutionary ideas in the modern West, Dr Campion considers the contributions of the key figures of the 18th century; the legacy of the astronomer Isaac Newton and the Swedish visionary Emanuel Swedenborg; as well as the theosophist, H.P. Blavatsky; the psychologist, C.G. Jung and the writer and artist, Jose Arguelles. He also pays particular attention to the beat writers of the 1950s; the counterculture of the 1960s; concepts of the Aquarian Age and prophecies of the end of the Maya Calendar in 2012. As the book concludes, Dr Campion examines neoconservatism as both a reaction against the 1960s and as a utopian phenomenon.

“In the final chapter I explain the disaster of the US/British invasion of Iraq in 2003 as a manifestation of the ancient belief that history has a purpose and a direction.

“Driven by the neoconservatives, The Bush administration thought that by the simple act of overthrowing Saddam Hussein, Iraq would become an American-style democracy. It was believed that this progression from dictatorship to democracy was written into a law of the universe, manifested through history. There was therefore no need to make adequate preparations for the aftermath of the invasion because of the belief that it would be managed by history,” states Dr Campion.

“The aftermath of the invasion of Iraq is of ongoing significance,” he adds. “The delay in the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry is currently a topic of public concern. The eruption of ISIS into middle eastern politics is a major factor in civil war in Iraq and Syria and a central cause of the European refugee crisis.  The book’s topical importance lies in the attention it draws to causes of the 2003 invasion in the Bush administrations metaphysics. This material is in the public record but is almost entirely ignored.”

The New Age in the Modern West: Counterculture, Utopia and Prophecy from the Late Eighteenth Century to the Present Day is published by Bloomsbury.

Further Information

  1. For further information, please contact Sian-Elin Davies by emailing sian-elin.davies@uwtsd.ac.uk/ 01267 676908 / 07449 998476
  2. For Bloomsbury USA contact Joseph Kreuser;   Joseph.Kreuser@bloomsbury.com 
  3. For Bloomsbury UK contact Carly Bareham;  Carly.Bareham@bloomsbury.com