Astrology, magic jewelry, gurus… Behind the business of esotericism, a real thirst for spirituality

The market for esotericism is flourishing. A curious commercial alchemy that hides a real aspiration to spirituality. Decryption.

Astrology (celestial configurations), numerology (properties of numbers), lithotherapy (benefits of stones), tarotoracles, shamanism, vipassana meditation are not new beliefs and practices. But in recent years, they have crystallized the different faces of the sacred in our Western societies, borrowing from old forms and reinventing them in the light of essential variables such as choice and self-determination. “God has put on new clothes”, wrote the writer and sociologist Frédéric Lenoir several years ago. The sacred becomes an intimate and colorful experience, far from the paths of Compostela, the walkers form a very disparate nebula.

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Asked by several major houses to lead astrology workshops during events, Julie Patriat, an astrologer trained since 2009, was able to take the pulse of this quest for multiple truths. “Even if astrology is an ancestral tradition which existed of course at the time of the Magi, and which was practiced among the Egyptians, there has been a real revival of the practice recently. The Covid only accelerated things. Locked up at home, people have had time to question their model, the meaning of their life, and ask themselves questions. Her clientele is made up of a majority of women from the middle class (even if the men are uninhibited), who see it as a door to self-knowledge, which no longer has anything to do with clairvoyance. It is this notion of intimate quest that is central to appreciating new forms of the sacred. The individual is open to everything know each other better himself.

A mix of occultism

Practicing an astrology based on cellular memory, this astrologer insists on the tool side and on the complementarity of the different disciplines. “It’s not the typical profile of astrologers, but I am a believer. I believe in God, in Jesus, and even in angels”, confides Julie Patriat, while on her desk, an olive wood cross, brought from Jerusalem, stands alongside a set of divinatory cards of Saints & Angels and a stick of sage, which she burns after each session to purify the air. “The person who confines himself to a practice will progress less, but you have to know how to go towards what suits you, not to scatter.” In parallel with her activity as a press attaché, Audrey trained in numerology. First through numerous readings, then through training: “After having had a child, I felt the need when resuming my activity to validate the fact that I was on the right path. It is this insight that the people who consult me ​​are looking for today.” Fascinated since childhood by astronomy and psychology, the creator of candles Olfactory Paris has, for his part, followed a formation of astropsychology. This is how she learned to make a theme, and thought of slipping it into small vials encapsulated in wax. “The approach is more psychologizing than fortune-telling. It’s a way of reassuring oneself, of clinging to the planets. I worked on the whole sensory palette, smells with a couple of noses, touches, with symbolic designs. There is an introspective dimension, and the reading of the theme, I am told, surprises by the accuracy of certain conclusions. People like to be talked to about them.”

There is a reason for the emergence of this spiritual scene. This responds to an expectation and a need for answers that are no longer found elsewhere.

Jean-Laurent Cassely, journalist

What characterizes these new forms of the sacred is therefore their ability to lend themselves to all varieties of hybridization. Sociologists thus speak of “spiritual tinkering”. Unlike believers in monotheistic religions who believe in only one God, belong to a chapel, followers of the neosacral are curious about everything, test and combine several practices.
Journalist Jean-Laurent Cassely thinks it would be wrong to see only a marketing drift. He devotes a chapter of his book, France before our eyes (1), to the “French spiritual patchwork” in which he reviews the rise of psy culturethe fact that shamanism and esotericism are gaining ground in all social circles and the place of yoga in this great mix. “There is a reason for the emergence of this spiritual scene, he deciphers. This responds to an expectation and a need for answers that are no longer found elsewhere. Traditional religious languages ​​have become dead languages ​​in our Western society, often disconnected from practice and everyday life. A world, whose pillars were religion, politics, the great utopias, is disappearing and something is reinventing itself, but it should not be seen as mere market drift.

Analysis and humor

In the great toolbox of spirituality, there are not only more and more instruments, but they are intended for a growing number of practitioners and users. Relayed by publishing and social networks that play as a sounding board, the phenomenon becomes precisely societal. Should we see in this an individual takeover of belief? Not that easy. It would be tempting to see in it just yet another manifestation of a characteristic navel-gazing, but that would be a mistake. If the phenomenon is going viral as well with social networks, it is because the search of himself is not only reflexive. It also allows you to better connect to communities, to reconnect with the group. On Instagram, there are countless accounts dedicated to astrology, oracles, horoscopes. The young, potion-raised Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are the first to lend themselves to the game of horoscopes posted daily. Some very well done accounts, which combine knowledge of the subject and humor, reach audience records. This is the case ofAstrotrickwhich has 346,000 subscribers.

How to explain such a success? By the accuracy of the analysis combined with a certain hindsight. What the creator of the account, Maheva Stephan-Bugni, explains with great transparency: what interests her more than anything is the narration. In his case, well-felt, cash and direct writings. Another spiritual gateway: the witch, figurehead of the sacred feminine and incarnation of a feminine power reconnected to nature speaks enormously to young women, who in addition to being subscribed to a number of Insta accounts devour literature ranging from Mona Chollet to Anglo-Saxon authors.

find his compass

These “new adventurers and adventurers of spirituality”, as the sociologist Jean-François Barbier-Bouvet calls them, do not therefore form a homogeneous population. They don’t allow themselves to be locked up, neither in the cliché of the perched bobo of towns in post-traumatic shock nor in the image of the joint-smoking rural baba. There are intellectuals and textbooks, athletes and brains, city dwellers and suburbanites, executives, the most modest. Networks have helped broaden the spectrum, the globalization of ideas has done the rest. To better understand what drives them, journalist Marc Bonomelli has designed his investigative book, The New Roads of the Self (2), as a documented journey “in immersion among new spirituals”. Preferring the term “spiritual mixology”, borrowed from the world of cocktails, to that of do-it-yourself, he quotes the doctoral student in religious sciences Julia Itel to clarify the contours of this sacred beverage: “The quests for meaning of the children of baby boomers characterized by a more rational approach combining psychology, philosophy and spirituality.”

Deep-ecology (deep ecology) also called ecospirituality, which advocates radical transformations, has conveyed the idea that we should not simply change our consumption and production methods, but our vision and our relationship to the world. Reconnect to nature, to the cosmos

Jean-François Barbier-Bouvet, sociologist

According to him, this attraction for astrology, shamanism, this need to reconnect with a living cosmos is concomitant with a world in transition. The Covid has had a magnifying effect. “There was one coming out (revelation) with the coming in (confinement) of confinement.” But invoking an earlier and much more structuring phenomenon, he links these roads of the self to the climate crisis and the fears it engenders. “ecology, he very rightly points out, has found a place to be spiritualized. Deep-ecology (deep ecology) also called ecospirituality, which advocates radical transformations, has conveyed the idea that we should not simply change our consumption and production methods, but our vision and our relationship to the world. Reconnect with nature, with the cosmos.” From there, this red thread around a strong nature common to many of these spiritualities: neodruids, neopaganism, neoshamanism.

Protean offer

Faced with this changing world, which blurs the benchmarks, he analyzes these new forms of the sacred as ways of fluidity allowing one to adapt to movement. “The meditation of mindfulness, he cites as an example, makes it possible to accept the flow, to surf in this society which more and more resembles a great software which would constantly update itself. This is why those whom he prefers to call “spiritual creatives”, who try all sorts of combinations “in order not to fall into dogma”, increasingly see the sacred as a personal experience of immanence. If the word divine is still widely used, it is no longer at all to qualify a vertical relationship, even less personified in a god, but on the contrary a horizontal search, a vital, invisible energy.

One of the risks of this protean offer is to lack the compass to choose what is best and run away from the new gurus who take advantage of it to sneak onto the networks. Without going that far, the financialization by some practitioners of their writings, their conferences, their games is not always justified, especially when they avail themselves of express mini-training.
This is where spiritual creatives who mistrust the mind rely heavily on intuition, feeling, instinct, and not always being good omens. Between 2015 and 2020, complaints of sectarian aberrations to Miviludes almost doubled in this health and well-being sector. It would be simplistic to limit the new sacred to these excesses, but we must know this reality. In particular, we must be careful not to fall into the new injunctions of what some already call the “happycracy», to use the title of the book by Edgar Cabanas and Eva Illouz. “The other day, on Tinder, I came across a person who told me if you’re Gemini, swipe left… Basically, get out!” reports Marc Bonomelli, a little outraged. Not very much a quest for meaning!

(1) France before our eyes, co-written by Jean-Laurent Cassely, Éditions du Seuil, 496 p., €23.

(2) The new roads of the self, by Marc Bonomelli, Editions Arkhé, 320 p., €19.90.

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Astrology, magic jewelry, gurus… Behind the business of esotericism, a real thirst for spirituality

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