The "New Age" movement was very big in the 70s and 80s but has become pretty much absorbed into the mainstream by now. It is an extraordinary amalgamation of streams and currents of esotericism, holistic healing, intuitive consciousness, and popular superstitions and folklore. Less a religion then an awakening of consciousness on a collective level. It constitutes the rejection of the dogmas and intellectual rigidity of the twin fundamentalistic orientations of the twentieth century - religious literalism and rationalistic materialism and an attunement to life, Gaia, and the cosmos as a whole.
But the flip side of the coin is that the New Age movement represents a rejection of rationality in favour of a naive irrationality. It is associated with all sorts of pernicious beliefs, e.g. "earth changes" (California, Japan etc sinking beneath the waves), paying large amounts of money for workshops of dubious benefit, and impicate acceptance of lower psychic drivel that is manifested through "channellers", "ascended masters", and the like.
Like everything else in the world today, the New Age movement is being absorbed into the wider multiplexity of contemporary Western pop-culture.
The "New Age" is actually a synthesis of many different beliefs and currents of thought, the emphasis being on a rejection of the limitations of reductionist materialism and an emphasis on the way that one can alter one's personal reality through the application of belief, visualisation, and positive affirmation. In a sense it is a spiritual awakening, an activation of the "theosphere", an integration of holistic healing, alternative spirituality, esotericism, environmental sensitivity, alternative life-styles, awareness of other dimensions of existence, and attunement to the cosmos.
Unfortunately, as with all such movements, the New Age has fallen prey to all manner of fakes and charlatans and rip-off merchants. These can fortunately be avoided by a simple rule of thumb. i.e.: if anyone asks you for a large sum of money before giving you a mantra, cleansing your aura, raising your vibration, awakening your kundalini, taking you on a vision quest, initiating you into hermetics, or anything else, they are a fake and to be avoided like the plague.
Ok, some occult organisations, e.g. the OTO, will charge yearly fees for example. This however pertains to the membership of the organisation, rather than to payment for initiation. Also there are some people (clairvoyants etc) who ask a genuine amount in order to survive and make a living. But I am talking about slick commercialism - workshops charging hundreds of dollars, where they tell you what you could have gotten out of a book or your own common sense.
Note regarding clairvoyants: there are many psychics and clairvoyants who ask for money for aura readings etc. Although this may seem like a fair service, remember that these people are psychics, they are not spiritual. They have an awakening into the etheric and astral planes. They do not necessarily (or even) have a spiritual awakening.
This is a simple fact: a true spiritual teacher never asks for money. Never demands that you do something that goes against your honest conscience. And never asks for cultic obedience above all else.
Once you have these simple facts in hand, you may explore the weird and wonderful world of the New Age (or what insignificant amount there is of left of it once the profit-mongers and greed merchants are eliminated) at your leisure!
(written in 1998): Another problem that characterises much of the New Age is an absolute lack of critical thinking. People will believe all sorts of nonsense, and are very susceptible to negative suggestions from formations in the lower astral plane. A good example of this is the incredible popularity of the belief in catastrophic "earth changes". This has absolutely no basis in fact, and there will be a lot a red faces when the millennium rolls around and California and Japan and where-ever else hasn't sunk beneath the waves, the earth hasn't tilted on it's axis, people's DNA hasn't been miraculously transformed, etc etc.
Authors note: most of this page, including the above paragraph, dates from 1998. I left that paragraph unchanged because it shows how stupid these predictions are. I am quite sure that all that mayan calender 2012 stuff to turn out the same way.
Of course, all the people who propound these prophecies will have explanations - e.g. it really did happen, but on the subtle level. Or mankind has been granted a period of grace. Or the spiritual powers changed their minds.
The best attitude that can be taken is to integrate New Age and scientific thinking, in order to get the best from both, and avoid falling into the pitfalls that comes from one-sided allegiance to either extreme.
The Pleiades in Fact & Fiction - Exploding the myth of the Photon Belt - by Clare Williams - concerns the February 1991 Australian Nexus magazine article "The Photon Belt Story", and channeled predictions of dates of July 23, 1992, or July 26, 1992, of Planet Earth's entry into the Photon Belt. This on-line essay is quite informative because it shows how absurd and so out of touch with physical facts a typical New Age belief construct can be. Salem New Age Center copy of this page - another copy