This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1994, Volume 11, Number 1, pages126-127. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.
Book Review - The New Age in Argentina: Fraud or Spiritual Growth?
Alfredo Silletta. Beas Ediciones, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1993, 220 pages.
La Nueva Era en Argentina: Engaño o Crecimiento Espiritual? (The New Age in Argentina: Fraud or Spiritual Growth?) is the author's latest publication on the subject of dangerous, thought-repressing groups and movements. This time Silletta has chosen to concentrate on what he describes as a "nontraditional cultural movement"—namely, the New Age (Nueva Era) in Argentina. His book is a brief, extremely condensed, pocket guide to an array of themes, history, theories, and people connected directly or indirectly with the New Age movement.
In the introduction Silletta proposes to study the roots of the movement in the South American country, and to also look at the sociocultural conditions that made the soil fertile for the New Age to flourish there.
The first chapter gives the reader a general overview of the rise of New Agers in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, and also outlines the different techniques alleged by New Age practitioners as ways to reach a deliberate change of consciousness. In the second chapter the author briefly explains in layperson's terms the different sets of ideas from which the New Age has borrowed its beliefs, including esoteric and occult theories, psychology and alternative therapies, Eastern religions, Christianity, astrology, shamanism, and ufology.
Chapter 3 mentions the influences of certain scientific theories on the New Age movement—ranging from positive (the movement's concern for the environment and the planet Earth) to negative and dangerous (their belief in the individual being almighty)—which often result in utter narcissism, selfishness, insensitivity, and psychotic crises. Silletta also points to what he perceives as the parallelism between Nazism and the New Age, including allowing feelings and intuition to dominate the intellect, or the irrational to control the rational.
The fourth and final chapter gives the lowdown on Argentina's entertainment paparazzi and prominent public figures who have been victimized by the latest fads in mind-altering techniques. Like their U.S. counterparts, they too have become the movement's perhaps cheapest and most effective way to advertise.
At the conclusion of his book, Silletta laments how the New Age movement attempts to find a common denominator to both science and religion, reason and magic, East and West, minimizing world problems as "states of mind" easily resolved once humanity awakens to New Age consciousness. Silletta criticizes the movement's emphasis on sending telepathic messages or channeling the advice of extraterrestrial beings to improve the world, instead of acting to bring about change.
The New Age in Argentina is a very practical quick-reference guide for the person with background knowledge of the New Age movement, as well as a useful overview for the reader who is exploring for the first time the main characteristics of the movement. The book's brevity, unfortunately, is also its major disadvantage. The book is condensed and abbreviated in character; Silletta simplifies his arguments, thus shortchanging certain topics and assuming too great a familiarity on the part of the reader. The book, nonetheless, highlights the positive and negative aspects of the New Age movement, thus whetting the reader's appetite for further research.
Cultic Studies Journal Volume 11 Number 1 1994