A Growing Industry
The Growing Industry of New Age Beliefs
For thousands of years, humans have sought answers and peace from various divine powers to explain the unknown. While mainstream religion plays a vital role in a significant amount of people all around the world, beliefs and practices of the New Age have become increasingly popularized and less taboo than before. People are turning to psychic and medium sessions, tarot card readings, astrology and even crystals and stones that are believed to have healing energies for answers, peace and their own wellness. The products and activities that are provided by these New Age beliefs have grown into a $2 billion dollar industry, with a steady growth rate of 1.6% from 2014-2019. Is this just another highly profitable wellness fad, or is there an unexplainable truth to these services? In a 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center, New Age beliefs were categorized by beliefs in reincarnation, psychics, astrology and that spiritual energies can be found in physical objects. The survey revealed that roughly six-in-ten American adults believe in at least one of these New Age beliefs.
Being a psychic is a vastly complicated concept-that goes beyond looking into a crystal ball and knowing a person’s fate. Fortune telling has been around throughout ancient and modern history, astrology being one of the oldest and most well-known pseudoscience. Several psychic practices have prevailed throughout history, gaining popularity in different moments of time. Along with the rise of these practices, there have been critics of the Spiritualism movement. In the 1920s, Harry Houdini, a stunt performer who initially turned to spiritualism after his mother’s death, became one of the most well-known debunkers of fraudulent psychics. The New Age Movement was a counterculture of the 1970s that popularized many New Age beliefs and practices. Most recently with the abundance of uncertainty in the world, many individuals have turned to psychics for spiritual guidance and clarity for their lives and futures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reality television star Theresa Caputo is arguably one of the most famous New Age belief practitioners in this country, most known for her TLC show, Long Island Medium. Easily recognizable from her bright blonde poofy hair and long acrylic nails, Caputo is a self-proclaimed psychic medium who has the ability to connect with spirits of people who have passed on, through a sixth sense of knowing and intuition. Cameras followed Caputo as she went about her daily life living as a seemingly typical wife and mother in the suburbs of Long Island, with a unique hidden ability. The show filmed her private sessions with clients seeking another chance to hear from their loved ones who have passed, as well as her interactions with strangers in public to whom she gave messages from spirits. The TLC show made her business take off, with multiple book deals and the launch of her nationwide tour, Theresa Caputo “The Live Experience”. Caputo revealed that she hasn’t raised the prices of her sessions since her show started. $175 for a private reading and $50 a person for a group meeting.
While Caputo gained commercial success, she also gained critics-not uncommon to other mediums and psychics alike. Critics often say that mediums capitalize off a vulnerable person’s grief, and psychics feed off a person’s anxiety, when they are open to hearing anything for guidance. In a New York Times interview, Lisa Levine, the founder of a wellness center in Brooklyn, New York, said that it is “all about the intention of the medium”.
“Telling somebody something that you think they want to hear, although not necessarily damaging, is maybe just like putting a Band-Aid on something,” Levine said. “And maybe that is all the person wants, a Band-Aid, or some type of ‘it’s O.K., your deceased mother forgives you or your passed father does love you.’”
Though she never had a session with the Long Island medium herself, Long Island native Alaine Weinstein has had experiences with multiple psychics and mediums throughout the years. While grieving the loss of a loved one, Weinstein had her first session with a medium in 2010.
“I think because I was grieving so much, I felt like I believed he was there,” Weinstein said. “You put your rational side away when you’re in an emotional situation like that.”
Weinstein had a second session with another medium several years later, and said that this one was able to share things about her loved one that a stranger couldn’t ever know or search online. She also shared her experiences in other psychic sessions. While there were some psychics who said very general statements that could be applied to anyone, sometimes she’d have readings that she would think were-in her own words-“bullshit”, but then left her mind blown when their statements came true. “There’s definitely those out there trying to make money off people and then there are those who are legit…I do believe spirits will come through if you’re relaxed and can trust the process,” she said. Another practice that came out of New Age beliefs is crystal healing, an alternative medical technique. While there is no scientific evidence to back up what people claim crystals to do, they are believed to promote positive energy throughout the mind and body while releasing negative energy. They are used by New Age spas, psychics and tarot readers, but also can be seen as a collectible for everyday people to help with their daily lives.
Krista of Kailua Crystals, a locally owned crystal shop in the city of Kailua, Hawaii, explained that crystals release their own stable energy 24/7, while the energy of humans fluctuate throughout the day. She said the energy of a crystal can stabilize the energy of someone who intends to use it.
“Crystals,” she explained, “work through one’s own intuition and energy of your chakras.”
When asked about the demographics of customers who come into the store, Krista says they are mostly women from the ages of 20-35, but there is an older generation of “skilled light healers” ages 50-65. She said that half of their customers come into the store seeking a specific item for their needs, but the other half usually come in with an open mind, searching for something to help them with grounding, trust, and money. I was a bit of an outlier. I came in with an open mind, searching for answers for my story rather than a crystal for my own healing.
As someone who was generally ignorant to crystals and their supposed powers prior to coming into the store, I stood at the register wondering if I gave in to another capitalist scheme. I chatted a bit more with several of the store workers, asking them questions beyond crystals and about their own experiences with psychic mediums. They thanked me for coming in, saying that their store is “full of good vibes and calming energy”. In that moment, I thought of how I wasn’t having a particularly great day and how my mood completely changed after talking to these ladies, in the presence of these crystals. Leaving the crystal store with a six-dollar opalite pendant that would supposedly help with communication and self-confidence, and their answers in my notes, I was also left with my own lingering thoughts and questions.
In the days after, I wore my pendant without any expectations, and I didn’t think much of it besides the fact that I thought it was very pretty. When I did think about it, maybe I was feeling more confident recently with how I presented myself and communicated with others. Did my “open-mind” lead to my own confirmation bias because of my desire for these improvements with myself, and was I just attributing these changes to the crystal I had bought? The only conclusive fact is that I was six dollars poorer and maybe a bit more curious.
The desire for answers about the unknown can lead the mind in many different directions for inner healing. This industry directly feeds into that exact demand. Times of uncertainty, grief, or curiosity can lead people to searching for answers through these practices. Many practices of New Age beliefs are easily debunked scientifically, but there are many unexplainable experiences that many don’t brush to the side. There will always be believers, skeptics and debunkers. Whether if it’s possible for a medium to know something about a deceased loved one that no one would ever know, or if there are healing powers in crystals, or if psychics can tell one’s future, it is all up to an individual’s own perception of the world to determine if they believe it to be true.
Erin Terada is a junior Journalism major whose psychic told them to write this article. Reach them at [email protected].