Nobody ever stood at the base of the Rocky Mountains, looking up, and said, "Remember that time in high school when I could bench 300 pounds?"
-- Matt Chandler
I have a theory -- just a guess, mind you -- as to why hippy-dippy New Agers predominate in places like the Pacific Northwest, New England, and the American Southwest. It's because the environment is so overwhelmingly beautiful.
This thought was triggered in my mind last Sunday when one of youth was presenting his testimony of a solo trek in the mountains of upstate New York over the summer. He said to the congregation, "When you're in the mountains you realize, 'Yeah, I'm insignificant'." That reminded me of the Chandler quote at the top of the post and it made me think about how for many people -- not all, of course -- living in naturally beautiful places heightens the spiritual senses.
So I wonder if the reason we see so many pantheists and New Agers and what-not in these specific areas has something to do with the way the largeness of God's creation has triggered in them a sense of the numinous -- "Yes," they reason, struck small by the majesty of the mountains or the roaring of the oceans or the mystery of the desert, "there is something larger, more meaningful, more spiritual than me in the world" -- while the rebellion of their heart has triggered in them a spiritual knee-jerk response of self-assertion. Perhaps New Agey-ness is a way of offsetting the pain of undeniable smallness.
And when you think of it that way, we see this response in every form of idolatry, explicitly "spiritual" or otherwise.