New Age spirituality is on the rise in many places. There is a shift, particularly among young people, towards spirituality instead of formal religion. According to a 2021 study by Arizona Christian University’s Cultural Research Center, younger Americans are far more likely than any other generation to reject biblical principles in favour of more worldly spiritual perspectives and practices.
In an earlier study, “The Emergence of Conspirituality” published in the Journal of Contemporary Religion, sociologists Charlotte Ward and David Voas noted that sometimes those with New Age beliefs are more prone to thinking like conspiracy theorists. They coined the term “conspirituality” and argued that conspiritualist movements are united by the belief that a group of elites has covert control of society, and that society must be liberated from that grip.
Concurrently, the COVID-19 pandemic and the pro-Trump far right movement have proved to be fertile ground for conspiracy theories in the US. There are those who claim the pandemic is a construct of the deep state, among them anti-vaxxers, anti mask-wearing advocates and supporters of QAnon, a right wing conspiracy theory group. The so-called QAnon Shaman, Jake Angeli, who with his buffalo horns became the face of the Capitol riot in January 2021, is said by his lawyer to be ”deeply spiritual”. Angeli founded the Star Seed Academy which purports to “help people to awaken, evolve and ascend”.
A few months into the pandemic, a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher and Instagram influencer Seane Corn started noticing something strange on her social media feeds, posts that seem aligned with QAnon. “Every 5 posts, there would be a pink square with a pretty font, and it would say ‘Covid is a hoax’” said Corn. Ms. Corn and other wellness influencers, in response, posted a statement to the wellness community accusing QAnon of “taking advantage of our conscious community with videos and social media steeped with bizarre theories, mind control and misinformation.”
The pandemic has provided fertile conditions for conspiracy theories and “conspirituality” in Australia as well, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Religion and Ethics portal.Protests against 5G, vaccines, masks, and Bill Gates have been organised in Australian cities and attended by QAnon supporters and others with conspiritual views. Australian celebrities and influencers such as celebrity chef Pete Evans, and former reality show participant Fanos Panayides have also embraced conspiritual ideology and are using social media to find a wider audience.
Those with conspiritual views are still a minority within the broader spirituality and wellness movements. However, the infiltration of the far right extremist mentality into the realm of spirituality and wellness is something to take heed of in order to curb the spread of misinformation.
By Faeeza Khan
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