CESNUR - center for studies on new religions


June 17-20, 2004 - Baylor University, Waco, Texas

The Wisdom of Indigo Children:
An Emphatic Restatement of the Value of American Children

by Sarah W. Whedon, University of California, Santa Barbara
A paper presented at CESNUR 2004 international conference, Baylor University, Waco (Texas), June 18-20, 2004. Preliminary version. Do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author.

Jesse and Mattea are two typical Indigo Children.[1] Jesse, the older of the two, was born in 1987. He was “a ruler on another planet,” but an accident caused him to fall into the womb of his mother Renee Weddle and thus he was born on Earth. Jesse prefers the name he was called in his previous life, Thomas, and is frequently in communication with people from that planet where he used to live. He is very sensitive to what other people are feeling, “sometimes to the point where it causes him anxiety” and can read their thoughts. Jesse’s younger sister Mattea was born in 1990. Mattea remembers choosing Renee to be her mother so she could teach her “how to be goofy and silly.” Mattea, too was probably royalty in a previous life. In this life she speaks with fairies and with gnomes and experiences unusual voices and lights. Jesse and Mattea both are often frustrated by their parents’ inability to answer all of their spiritual questions. Sometimes, in fact, it seems that they have the wisdom to be teachers more than their parents do.

            While Jesse and Mattea may sound like unusual children, their mother believes that they are among a new breed of child that began to be born in the 1950s and 1960s, with a large increase in the late 1970s. According to those who write and teach about them, Indigo Children get their name from their indigo-colored auras, but those who do not see auras can also identify them by a number of common character traits. These children tend to be emotionally sensitive and creative and to act as though they are royalty. Frequently they have spiritual or extrasensory abilities that enable them to see auras, speak with nonhuman beings, remember past lives, and gather knowledge by other such non-rational means. Finally, Indigo Children usually have difficulty learning in public or other traditional school settings, experience discipline problems, and are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.

            How and why did this unusual group of children come to be identified? Answering this question requires placing them in their social and historical context. This paper will attempt to demonstrate that the convergence of two clearly identifiable historical steams has resulted in the creative synthesis that is the Indigo Children. The first is the religious or spiritual stream of the New Age movement. Common elements of New Age belief and practice, including the reality of auras, millennialism, and the need for personal transformation or self-help figure prominently in the conceptualization of the Indigo Children. These particular elements were brought together in relation to children because of the second historical stream, great public concern for both violence and excessive prescription of Ritalin among children in the late 1990s.

            Bruce Lincoln has argued that in ritual events an inversion of symbols, followed by a restoration, can serve to reinforce the social order. This process is something akin to a dialectic, excepting that instead of producing a synthesis, the outcome is more accurately described as an emphatic statement of the original thesis. Lincoln applies this theory to how rituals in a political context can be seen to be “making use of inversion and counterinversion to rescue an embattled ideology and sociopolitical order.”[2] For the purposes of understanding the symbolic significance of the individual children, we can expand Lincoln’s analysis of ritual to see history as a kind of ritual writ large, in that both involve symbolic action over time. In this light it is helpful to think of the emergence of Indigo Children as a restoration from an inversion of meaning. It is a re-inscription of value, where historically good children turned bad are able to be turned good again, and in the process expand their value to bring redemption to the larger community. The problem has become, for those who believe in the Indigo Children, its own solution. Or as Lincoln eloquently describes it, “An order twice inverted is an order restored, perhaps even strengthened as a result of the exercise.”[3]

            There is some difficulty in identifying these people who believe, who engage in this symbolic procession of inversions. There is no church of Indigo Children, nor any organization that one must belong to. People become participants largely by reading books about Indigo Children or perhaps by looking at websites.[4] This is not uncommon in the New Age. Catherine L. Albanese has argued, in fact, that the New Age itself is “so fluid and invidualistic” that it is difficult to determine what criteria can best function to decide membership.[5] The New Age broadly, and believers in Indigo Children more specifically, tend not to be made of traditional communities of local proximity. What holds Indigo believers together as a movement is a commonality of ideas that are shared primarily through textual modes of communication. Again it is helpful to turn to Albanese and her assessment that “New Age people discover one another especially by their language. Those who speak of the ‘universe,’ of ‘energy’ and ‘vibration,’ of chakras’ and ‘etheric entities’ acknowledge that they live in similar worlds and begin to share their participation.”[6]

The primary authors of textual media on Indigo Children are Lee Carroll and Jan Tober. They do make important use of all of the language cited by Albanese in their two books, published in 1999 and 2001 respectively. Although Carroll and Tober are given authorial credit, their writing is primarily to be found in brief passages that link together numerous contributions from other writers. Yet credit is due to them for choosing and organizing the many texts that make up each of their books. Both have worked as New Age teachers for a number of years before they became involved in promoting ideas about Indigo Children. When in 1989 a psychic predicted Carroll’s spiritual future and three years later another gave him the same information, he became committed to a career of channeling an entity known as Kryon and of sharing Kryon’s messages through nine books and countless workshops.[7] Tober has been in the business longer “as an intuitive counselor, hands-on healer, channel, meditation facilitator/leader, Reiki Master, co-founder of the Church of Awareness (San Diego California), and co-facilitator of the Kryon workshops and seminars.”[8] Between the two of them, then, they have access to an impressive array of New Age beliefs, practices, and teachers, many of them coming together in describing who the Indigo Children are and what is to be done about them.

            However, Carroll and Tober trace the story back further, dating the early identification of the Indigo Children to the 1982 publication of Nancy Ann Tappe’s book Enhancing Your Life thru Color. They argue that “this is the first known publication where the behavior patterns of these new children were identified.”[9] Tappe’s book was not enough to generate a movement around these special children, but it was a necessary resource for Carroll and Tober to be able to pull together an emergent movement. Tober and Tappe met in the mid 1970s, and Tappe continues to be included as an active participant in the pair’s work on the Indigo Children.

            Tappe narrates at the start of her book both childhood and adult experiences that led her to develop and write about a theory of color in human life.[10] Born the seventh of thirteen children in a West Virginia family, Tappe believes she was born curious and she grew to be a hyperactive child. Her grandmother was psychic and was the only person other than herself who was able to see her friend Golden Eagle. While serving in the Army during the Korean War, Tappe found herself in frequent trouble for what she called her “precognitive process.” It was not until the topic came up in a yoga class that Tappe took at the age of twenty-seven that she discovered a situation in which she was permitted to talk about her ability to see auras. After delineating her ideas about auras theoretically, Tappe spent nine years working with a psychiatrist to test and refine her information.[11] The results were first published in the 1982 book and expanded upon for the 1986 book Understanding Your Life thru Color, which describes the many aura colors, provides guidance on how to determine one’s own colors, and makes suggestions on how to work with these colors to improve one’s life.

            Of course Tappe was not the first person to identify colored auras, as even the acceptance of the idea at her Yoga class suggests. Something a good deal like the concept of the aura can be found in the nineteenth century spiritualist and healer Andrew Jackson Davis. Wouter J. Hanegraaff traces a simple lineage of “psychic atmosphere” to auras, in a few short lines and a footnote, from Davis to Phineas Parkhurst Quimby to the New Age. [12] Albanese provides greater detail in the evolution of the idea by demonstrating the influence of theosophists Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, who both were comfortable with the ability to see auras. Charles W. Leadbeater, another member of the Theosophical Society, introduced to the mix the perception of chakras, a series of energy wheels associated with different parts of the body, drawn from South Asian tradition and already appropriated by some European mystics.[13] The combination of these notions meant a rich history of energy fields around the human body that can be tapped by contemporary New Agers. Building on this tradition, Tappe describes a complex aura that consists of an electromagnetic field in and around the body.[14] By understanding and working with the colors of the aura, she believes that one can be healed or cause other changes in his or her life.

            Among Tappe’s descriptions of the many life colors that she identifies are the Indigos, which she describes as “a new breed of children.”[15] According to her, Indigos have many physical sensitivities as well as emotional sensitivities that may make psychological counseling a necessary tool. These children are also brilliant, exhibiting enormous skill with computers, and demanding to do things in their own ways. Importantly then, “parents of these children must guide them, not teach them”; that is, they must offer choices and their own suggestions on how to live in the world without telling the children what they must know or do.[16] Tappe further breaks down Indigos into four separate categories: The Artist who is skilled in visual or performing arts; The Conceptualist who is very smart and enjoys working with computers; The Humanist who is happiest attending to other people; and the Inter-planetarian who exhibits extreme curiosity coupled with a know-it-all attitude. She also presents a hint of the millennialism that is an important part of today’s Indigo Children movement when she writes, “When I observe the INDIGO lust for life and joy in living, I cannot believe there is impending doom for us. These children seem to be forerunners of a wonderful time and place in the future.”[17] In other words, the Indigo Children’s presence allows her to predict a positive future. Soft language here, such as “believe” and “seem” would be transformed in the next decade into language of greater conviction that describes the millennial hope that the Indigo Children will fulfill.

            Millennialism has long been a part of American religion as a Christian expectation of a coming period of peace that will radically transform the world. The term is not a perfect fit for the New Age because it does not necessarily involve a messiah or a thousand year reign, but the term does help to highlight continuities in this expectation that the world is on the verge of a total change for the better. Michael York has identified this vision as a sine qua non for the New Age. He points out that although New Agers may hold a wide and divergent array of beliefs, they all share in a “vision of radical mystical transformation on both the personal and collective levels.”[18] A kind of dispensational millennialism is evident in the very name New Age, which is a derivative of The Age of Aquarius, itself believed to be designated as an imminent paradigmatic shift mapped out in astrological movement. It is this emphasis on a “pursuit of the millennium” that, according to Hanegraaff, defines the New Age sensu stricto.[19] The existence of Indigo Children, the development of this new kind of child, is explained and also given cosmological significance through such a vision of imminent transformation.

            Carroll and Tober ask, “Isn’t it interesting that the children might be the key to showing us Divine truth?”[20] However, the Indigo Children have an even weightier task than simply teaching their parents and teachers. According to their promoters, they have arrived with the power and the knowledge, indeed the direct mission to transform the world. The most coherent narrative of the Indigos’ purpose appears in a book by Doreen Virtue, The Care and Feeding of Indigo Children.

            Virtue remembers her mother’s spiritual healing work as a Christian Science practitioner in the 1960s. Virtue saw and spoke with angels as a child, but when her two sons were still young Virtue went back to school, earning her Ph.D. in counseling psychology, and intentionally pushing spirituality out of her life in order to focus on her serious therapy work. A turning point came in 1995 when Virtue survived a carjacking incident because she chose that moment to allow herself to begin listening to the advice of her angels. The angel told her “to resist the carjackers and to scream with all [her] might . . . I was able to escape without losing my car, purse, or life.”[21] This experience caused her to come out of her spiritual closet and to begin practicing and teaching “angel therapy” instead of her former practice in traditional psychotherapy. In teaching angel therapy and writing angel prayers Virtue tries intentionally to leave behind the language of her Christian background, and she argues that angels are a part of every religion, even if called by a different name.[22] Virtue was a contributor to Carroll and Tober’s first book on Indigo Children, was a speaker at their first conference on Indigo Children, and is the only person to have written a consistent, sustained, book-length description of who the Indigo Children are and what can be done for them (the latter includes of course Angel Therapy).

            According to Virtue, the story of the purpose of the Indigo Children begins with the story of Lemuria, a lost paradise in the Pacific similar to Atlantis that entered New Age thought by way of theosophy. In Virtue’s telling, the Lemurians knew that they were going to lose their land and migrated to North America where they lived peaceful and spiritual lives until the coming of the Europeans who dominated and destroyed their way of life. Not until the 1990s did a surge in interest in spirituality really suggest that anything could change.

The angels have informed Virtue that the Indigo Children are here to effect these changes and these children have arrived with a strong-willed sense of their mission. This will mean raising spiritual awareness, but it will also mean making a number of changes on the political and cultural level. “They know that the archaic educational system needs a major overhaul. They know that the government and legal system is corrupt. They know that inequities abound in health care, animal treatment, and the environment. The Indigos are here to level these systems so that we can start over.”[23] Virtue compares Indigo Children to “the early settlers to North America or Australia . . . self-reliant, headstrong, and creative.”[24] This sense that Indigos will pioneer a new world, making the last frontier a spiritual frontier, is a fundamental conception within the ontology that allows for the existence of Indigos. Finally, though, this is not simply a political change or a cultural change that the Indigo Children bring, but a spiritual change. The world will be radically transformed because, “they’ve come here to usher in the New Energy of Peace.”[25]

            This last point from Virtue opens up a significant point of ambiguity within teachings about Indigo Children. Virtue indicates that the origin of Indigo Children is extraterrestrial when she writes that Indigo Children “came to Earth” or “they were sent here from heaven.”[26] Tappe, on the other hand, believes that Indigo Children can come from at least two sources. When interviewed by Tober she argues that “There are some [Indigo Children] who have already gone through the third dimension, and there are some, I think, who came from another planet. That’s the inter-planets Indigo [sic] – why I call them interdimensional.”[27] According to her scheme, specifically the interdimensional is the type of Indigo Child who will bring new wisdom, new philosophy, and new religion to the world. Yet another kind of language around the origin of the Indigo Children is that of evolution, wherein they represent not only a better kind of human being, but even a new race.[28] That there is no clear consensus among writers who support each other and contribute to the same books on what the Indigo Children are made of, or how they came to be, may in part stem from ambivalence around concerns for science and religion. However, it appears that understanding who the Indigo Children are and what to do about them now that they are here is far more important than filling in a coherent history and ontology. As Hanegraaf has noted, New Agers have tended to be more interested in when the Age of Aquarius is coming and what changes that will mean than in articulating what ages have preceded.[29]

            The elements of cosmology that are articulated around the Indigo Children also demonstrate a deep ambivalence about the relative value and truth of science and religion. All of the Indigo writers discussed thus far legitimate their writings through the rubric of science, and there is heavy emphasis on official or important sounding credentials. Tappe, for example, tested her theories in collaboration with a psychiatrist. In their 1999 introduction, Carroll and Tober write that the collection contains work by “accredited children’s workers, teachers, Ph.D.’s, M.D.’s, and authors all over the country…bring[ing] validation in a real-world way to something that we have observed in a nonscientific way through our work.”[30] They quarantine what they see as specifically religious content in chapters with titles like “Spiritual Aspects of Indigos,” in which they warn: “If you are at all offended by New Age metaphysics or spiritual talk in general, then please skip this chapter.”[31] Yet the language throughout the book would be off-putting to anyone uncomfortable with the New Age, auras no less than angels. We may recall here Albanese’s insight that a shared discourse is what enables New Agers to identify with one another. In fact, a shared discourse that suggests science can support spirituality is a major part of this.

In addition to reading about Indigo Children and developing spiritually or scientifically based theories on their existence and meaning, there are other things to do if one has or knows an Indigo Child. Some suggestions for rearing an Indigo Child are based on one’s personal spiritual practice, such as Virtue’s advice for working with angels in relation to the children. Other suggestions fall on a more practical or secular level, such as providing contact information for alternative school systems such as Montessori and Waldorf. Most of the suggestions that Virtue makes in her book could be applied to balanced care of any child, whether Indigo or not. She summarizes these suggestions in her closing section where she reminds Indigo Children “by keeping your mind and body attuned with meditation, exercise, communing with nature, and eating healthful foods, you’ll be able to clearly understand the Divine guidance that will direct you on your path.”[32] The details of her prescriptions are thus nothing radical, especially if seen in the context of a New Age concern for holistic healthcare.[33] Carroll and Tober’s summarizing recommendations to parents of Indigo Children are similarly innocuous. They write

·      Never lie.

·      Inform them about important family matters before final decisions are made.

·      Try to understand what gives your kids joy, and then ask them if you can occasionally participate in some activities of theirs.

·      Discipline: Use it sparingly, and make it clear what your boundaries are.

·      Touch your kids often.[34]


Indeed a “false positive” identification of an Indigo Child would arguably be of no detriment to that child if she were treated according to Virtue’s guidelines.

This wide applicability would be true if these methods were utilized without the expectation of the children’s ability to transform the world and more immediately to bring wisdom and spirituality to their parents. In this sense the entire Indigo movement has as much to do with the adults as it does with the children. Tober notes that active work on writing and teaching about Indigo Children emerged when New Age workshop participants asked, “What can we do to help the children?”[35] Note the emphasis here on what the adults can do. The Indigo movement is not for those who do not have Indigo Children in their lives. There is nothing to do if one does not personally know any Indigos. Not only are adults to be major actors around the lines of Indigo children, but there is a great deal to be done for caretakers, especially parents of Indigo Children.

For these parents, one writer argues, “working with Indigo Children is akin to working on our ourselves. The lessons they teach are obvious!”[36] These lessons to be learned become a part of the New Age adult’s on-going process of self-help and personal growth. The improvement of the individual’s life is an integral part of the New Age worldview, as exemplified by Tappe’s writings on the ability to heal the self and direct one’s life through manipulation of the aura. One important trajectory of personal growth has to do with the concept of the “inner child.” According to proponents Indigo Children have the ability to bring out the inner child in an adult with whom they interact.[37] Carroll and Tober even suggest that perhaps this drawing out is the real mission of the Indigo Children.[38] This inner child is described by self-help writers Erika J. Chopich and Margaret Paul in a way that evokes the ordinary parent-child relationship: “the Inner Child inside every human being . . . need[s] to connect . . . with its loving Inner Adult.”[39] Carroll and Tober write about the inner child at length in their 2001 book in terms of the importance for the adult of connecting with this inner child, a process that Tober has taught through the workshop format. The personal growth model relies on techniques that can be learned through the purchase of books or attendance at workshops. For 225 dollars one could register to attend a 2002 Indigo Child workshop.

Michael F. Brown points to “the ubiquity of fee-for-service relationships among practitioners of New Age spirituality” as a source of contention, but he is quick to remember that money has always been entwined in American religious practice, though frequently in a more masked fashion.[40] Further, Brown describes how a conception of money as an energy form, dating back to Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science, enables channellers to interpret financial abundance as a spiritual good. It is worth remembering at this point that Carroll and Tober have extensive experience in the spiritual practice as well as the business of channeling the entity Kryon.

The impetus to bring all of this together in the media of book, workshop, and website, however, lies in the particular historical circumstances at the end of the twentieth century. The perceived crises of American childhood that are reinscribed with positive meaning in the universe of the Indigo children are two-fold. First there is the increase in diagnoses of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit/ Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) in American children. Second, and of somewhat less importance in the discourse of the Indigos, but of no less importance in American popular discourse is the heightened awareness of youth violence.

            In order to have a crisis or a threat, however, there first has to be something perceived as good. By the beginning of the twentieth century American children were being understood not simply as functional working and wage-earning members of the family as they had been historically. Instead they were being romanticized, constructed as innocent, thus both fragile and in need of protection, and unblemished and worthy of praise.[41] In additional to being the subject of romantic notions, this new child was wrapped in optimism for a new American nation that would be led by the young citizens who were being molded out of innocent children attending the public schools. This is the necessary historical backdrop for a collective experience of fear that something had gone wrong with the children and that the public schools were not working.

            In what I am calling the initial moment of inversion, these innocent children were, in the late 1990s, turned into monsters or the incurably ill. As monsters children engaged in school violence that received exaggerated coverage by the news media. Particularly the case of the school shootings at Littleton, Colorado’s Columbine High School in the spring of 1999 prompted a media sensation. [42] Virtue acknowledges the construction of this terror as more about shocking headlines than persistent threats to safety, but nevertheless observes the climate of fear.[43] Children, high school youth on the verge of emerging into the adult world of American society, had become abominations, capable of murdering their own kind. Something seemed to have gone terribly wrong with these children. Multiple explanations were offered for this monstrosity, including lack of parental guidance, peer pressure, media violence, loose gun laws, but none seemed capable of alleviating the immediate horror and disbelief.

Simultaneously children in large numbers were being diagnosed with mental illness in the form of ADD.[44] The illness was “characterized by impulsivity, disruptiveness, and difficulty in sustaining vigilant attention.”[45] Because these behavioral traits made it difficult for children to participate in the orderly, standardized, and sustained learning environment of the public schools, ADD became not only a personal or familial concern but an issue for the schools. Again, in the cycle of inversion of values, diagnosis with ADD helped many people to find hope and redemption for otherwise inexcusable behavior. Yet the prospect of perpetual illness is not ultimately a bright one. Further, it was not uncommon for parents to fear forced or excessive medication by doctors and teachers. By 1996 the number of American children on Ritalin, a drug prescribed for ADD symptoms, was at a staggering 1.5 million.[46] That so many American children could be ill seemed overwhelming and even ridiculous. In the face of these concerns some patients and their families took matters into their own hands, self-diagnosing or at the other end of the spectrum, self-medicating with alternative or holistic techniques. In this context the emergence of the Indigo movement represented one means for taking control over monstrous and sick youth. The meaning systems could be re-inverted and the children redeemed. Instead of monsters and illnesses, one group of New Age thinkers saw in their place the Indigo Children.

Concern for ADD is more pervasive and more obvious in the Indigo literature. Carroll and Tober, as well as Virtue, make it a central concern of their books. They assert that many Indigo Children have been falsely diagnosed with ADD. The special characteristics of Indigos such as creativity, sensitivity, and unwillingness to participate in structures or programs that have no apparent meaning or value to the children do not represent illness, but rather a special, even better breed of child. Instead of medicating children then, the burden of healing the illness lies on the parents and schools to provide “care and feeding” that is appropriate to Indigo Children.

Virtue makes the inversion visible on a linguistic level, overturning the negativity of ADD and ADHD. So ADD, when read as a verb rather than an acronym is rendered a meaning roughly equivalent to plus, and ADHD is reassigned as “Attention Dialed into a Higher Dimension.”[47] There is a subtle slippage here. Although Virtue, along with most expounders of Indigo knowledge, is careful to note that not all those children diagnosed with ADD are Indigo (and vice versa) in passages such as this one that observation is not highlighted. Instead it is critical that the psychological diagnoses for all are not simply dismissed or ignored, but are retained and turned on their head.

            Likewise, for movement figures the violence seen among children can be attributed to the social system not providing adequately for the special needs of Indigo Children. Children who kill are not monsters at core. Without proper “care and feeding,” however, Indigo Children are unable to cope with this alien world and their energies become twisted or channeled in destructive directions. Tappe states when interviewed about the current condition of Indigos that “these young children – every one of them I’ve seen thus far who kill their schoolmates or parents – have been Indigos.”[48] Tober follows up at this point in her capacity as interviewer to note that because something has blocked the mission of an Indigo Child he or she blindly tries to destroy it, resulting in killing. Again, the horror is transferred from the children themselves to the world in which they find themselves. “These are Indigos – wise humanity in small bodies, being forced into a paradigm that is absolutely devastating to some of them. If they’re full of rage, you can blame the restrictive situations they were put in.”[49] The children are in fact attempting to redeem the world which itself is sick. The power of this ideology is that it in effect redeems the children.

            In both cases, the meaning of childhood could not be inverted from bad to good without the New Age ideology that underpins a new understanding of childhood. Carroll and Tober wrote that “the public is tired of reliving this horror. We want answers, not more reality TV.”[50] Parents, teachers, and other adults who might have felt horrified or out of control with regards to the current state of American children and who already had a rich history of New Age thought at their disposal could bring together particular elements, prominently belief in auras, millennialism and the power of self-help, in a creative synthesis that redeemed the children and in the process redeemed the world. In other words, they could get their answers.

            Questions remain about the impact of this ideology as it is played out in people’s lives. I have alluded above to the problem of what practices parents or teachers might actually engage in as a result of having read texts on Indigo Children. The lives of real children must not be forgotten in this analysis of ideology. There must be a tremendous burden involved in having been labeled by parents (whom one wants to please) as special, as prepared to transform the world. What, one might ask, will happen if the Indigo Children grow up and fail to usher in the new age of peace? What if they, like Krishnamurti who was adopted as a child to be a world redeemer by the Theosophical Society, abdicate the role that adults expect them to fulfill? As in the case of Krishnamurti, one strong possibility would be that it could be devastating to some, yet the children would not necessarily have to make a clean split from spiritual teachings. Because of ambiguity about exactly who the Indigo Children are, where they have come from, and what missions they are on, a smooth reworking of ideas to account for lack of change would not be difficult.

            What we are able to know now lies not in the future but in the historical record. At the end of the twentieth century the hope that children were innocents who could be trained by public schools as American leaders and citizens was threatened, but the emergence of the concept of Indigo Children was one way of redeeming and reinforcing that hope. That the broader ideas of the spiritual redemption of children can apply outside of the Indigo context is significant. The second Indigo Children book, An Indigo Celebration, cited evidence for a wider phenomenon in books published during the same period with titles such as Children of the New Millennium: Children’s Near-Death Experiences and Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence for Past Lives.[51] One believer working on alternative education for Indigo Children in Maine has restated the original thesis in language that could easily have been used by Americans outside the context of the New Age: “We’re preparing them to be responsible, peace-seeking global citizens.”[52]

            Although Indigo believers show an interest in globalism, the recent movement is a distinctively American one. This is evident in the two historical streams described above. It is also evident in the articulation of the American myth of expansion, as in Virtue’s comparison to early colonizers, wherein she creates a manifest destiny of spiritual transformation for the New Age. The notion of Indigo Children is not limited to the geographical confines of the American nation, so perhaps distinctive forms of the ideology will develop outside of the American context, but even a desire to find Indigos throughout the world sits comfortably in the current wave of globalization that America is riding.[53] David Chidester has looked for occurrences of the exemplary of American ideology in the ostensibly odd, shedding new light on the center by finding commonalities with the periphery.[54] Examination of the relatively fringe group of Indigo Children believers reveals something about the narratives of individual human lives and about larger New Age communities, but it also reveals the strength of certain pervasive American narratives and the hope for democratic citizenship and an ever more perfect future that American children continue to represent.

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---. “About the Author.” In Understanding Your Life Thru Color: Metaphysical Concepts in Colors and Auras. Carlsbad, Calif.: Starling Publishers, 1986.

---. “Introduction to the Indigos; interviewed by Jan Tober (Part I). In Lee Carroll and Jan Tober The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived. Carlsbad, Calif.: Hay House, 1999.

Tober , Jan. Foreword to The Care and Feeding of Indigo Children, by Doreen Virtue. Carlsbad, Calif.: Hay House, Inc., 2001.

Virtue, Doreen. The Care and Feeding of Indigo Children Carlsbad, Calif.: Hay House, Inc., 2001.

York, Michael. The Emerging Network: A Sociology of the New Age and Neo-Pagan Movements. London: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1995.


[1] Lee Carroll and Jan Tober. An Indigo Celebration: More Messages, Stories, and Insights from the Indigo Children (Carlsbad, Calif.: Hay House, Inc., 2001), 68-72.

[2] Bruce Lincoln. Discourse and the Construction of Society: Comparative Studies of Myth, Ritual, and Classification (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 158.

[3] Ibid., 159.

[4] They might send their children to an Indigo camp between 1999 and 2003 or to an Indigo school, opened in 2002 and currently accepting grades K - 4 (www.campindigo.org).

[5] Catherine L. Albanese. America: Religions and Religion, 3d. ed. (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1999), 367. The present study primarily makes use of textual evidence in order to paint the historical picture of the development of ideas about Indigo Children. An important component to future research on the Indigo Children would require determining who is purchasing the books or reading the websites that expound teachings on Indigos, and how those people appropriate, adapt, or adhere to the ideas.

[6] Ibid., 349.

[7] Carroll and Tober, Indigo Celebration, 235.

[8] Ibid., 237.

[9] Lee Carroll and Jan Tober. The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived. (Carlsbad, Calif.: Hay House, Inc, 1999), 5.

[10] Nancy Ann Tappe, “About the Author,” In Understanding Your Life Thru Color: Metaphysical Concepts in Colors and Auras (Carlsbad, Calif.: Starling Publishers, 1986), vii-xviii.

[11] Based on this brief biography Tappe herself sounds quite a bit like the Indigo Children. She however identifies her own color as Yellow. The world of Indigo Children does provide for a number of explanations for adults who exhibit Indigo characteristics. Carroll and Tober point out that a few Indigos were born ahead of the rest; Tappe describes how other life colors have begun to have Indigo-type elements; and Virtue identifies such adults as “light workers.”

[12] Catherine Albanese, “The Aura of Wellness: Subtle-Energy Healing and New Age Religion,” Religion and American Culture 10 (2000): 29-55; Wouter J. Hanegraaff. New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996), 486.

[13] Albanese, “The Aura of Wellness,” 43.

[14] Nancy Ann Tappe. Understanding Your Life Thru Color: Metaphysical Concepts in Colors and Auras (Carlsbad, Calif.: Starling Publishers, 1986), 91.

[15] Ibid., 317. Another writer and teacher on auras who is roughly contemporary to both Hunt and Tappe is Pamala Oslie. Her 1991 book identifies twenty-five “life colors” including Indigos whom she describes as “the New Age Children” in very similar language to Tappe and other writers on Indigo Children. Oslie identifies her teacher on the subject of auras as Dr. Barbara Bowers. It is unclear what the relationship between these women, if anything more than a participation in a common New Age culture. Pamala Oslie. Life Colors (San Rafael, Calif.: New World Library, 1991).

[16] Tappe, Life Thru Color, 322.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Michael York. The Emerging Network: A Sociology of the New Age and Neo-Pagan Movements. (London: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1995), 39.

[19] Hanegraaff, New Age Religion, 98.

[20] Carroll and Tober, Indigo Celebration, 58.

[21] Virtue. The Care and Feeding of Indigo Children (Carlsbad, Calif.: Hay House, Inc., 2001), 15.

[22] Ibid., 66.

[23] Ibid., 42.

[24] Ibid., 1. In Virtue’s narratives the Indigos can be compared to both the Lemurians and the European settlers who destroyed their way of life. This contradiction is not problematic for Virtue for a number of reasons. First, the latter is merely simile. Second, the worldview that allows for Indigo Children is relatively new in its particular construction and thus not entirely worked out coherently. Finally, and most importantly, I think, is that Virtue is tapping into two important American ideologies, the vision of the noble savage whose truths can be mined by New Agers and the vision of manifest destiny, which actually feeds the New Age notion that all traditions are open as possible sources of truth.

[25] Ibid., 45.

[26] Ibid., 21, 64.

[27] Carroll and Tober, Indigo Children, 126.

[28] Virtue, Care and Feeding, 21.

[29] Hanegraaff, New Age Religion, 102.

[30] Carroll and Tober, Indigo Children, xv.

[31] Ibid., 109.

[32] Virtue, Care and Feeding, 231.

[33] It makes sense to consider her recommendations as prescriptions in that they are the disrupting or replacing of Ritalin as prescribed by medical practitioners.

[34] Carroll and Tober, Indigo Celebratino, 223-26.

[35] Jan Tober, foreword to The Care and Feeding of Indigo Children, by Doreen Virtue. ( Carlsbad, Calif.: Hay House, Inc., 2001), ix.

[36] Kathy McCloskey, “The New Powerful Children” in The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived., by Lee Carroll and Jan Tober. (Carlsbad, Calif.: Hay House, Inc, 1999), 30.

[37] Robert Gerard, “Emissaries from Heaven” in The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived by Lee Carroll and Jan Tober. (Carlsbad, Calif.: Hay House, Inc, 1999), 38.

[38] Carroll and Tober, Indigo Celebration, 139.

[39] Erika J. Chopich and Margaret Paul. Healing Your Aloneness: Finding Love and Wholeness Through Your Inner Child (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1990), ix.

[40] Michael F. Brown. The Channeling Zone: American Spirituality in an Anxious Age (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997), 143.

[41] Paula S. Fass and Mary Ann Mason, introduction to Childhood in America (New York: New York University Press, 2000).

[42] It is unclear whether Carroll and Tober could have been aware of this particular incident at the time of their writing The Indigo Children. In her introduction to Virtue’s book, Tober identifies the period of authorship simply as spring of 1999. Even if the incident at Columbine had not yet occurred, other acts of violence were in the public eye, and the mood was already right to interpret Columbine in the manner that it was, when the event did occur.

[43] Virtue, Care and Feeding, 76.

[44] Henceforth I will use “ADD” as a shorthand for the more awkward “ADD and ADHD.”

[45] Andrew Lakoff, “Adaptive Will: The Evolution of Attention Deficite Disorder,” Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences 36 (2000): 149-169, 151.

[46] Ibid., 151.

[47] Virtue, Care and Feeding, 2-3.

[48] Nancy Anne Tappe, “Introduction to the Indigos; interviewed by Jan Tober (Part I)” in Lee Carroll and Jan Tober, eds. The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived (Carlsbad, Calif.: Hay House, 1999), 6-17, 9.

[49] Carroll and Tober, Indigo Celebration, 213.

[50] Ibid., 211.

[51] Carroll and Tober, Indigo Celebration, 233.

[52] Misty Edgecomb, “MDI Exploring Ideas for Alternative School,” Bangor Daily News, 27 February, 2001. Accessed via Lexis-Nexis, April 25, 2002.

[53] The Indigo movement has begun to spread to other continents, and books on the subject have been authored in both German and Spanish.

[54] David Chidester, “Saving the Children by Killing Them: Redemptive Sacrifice in the Ideologies of Jim Jones and Ronald Reagan.” Religion and American Culture. 1.2 (1991):177-201.

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