Chant Down Babylon
Men see their dreams and aspiration
Crumble in front of their face
And all of their wicked intention
To destroy the human race - Bob Marley
Maybe more Yippie, and less Hippie?
Yesterday on the RI board, "Johnny Nemo" remembered Abbie Hoffman saying "There were all these activists, you know, Berkeley radicals, White Panthers... all trying to stop the war and change things for the better. Then we got flooded with all these 'flower children' who were into drugs and sex. Where the hell did the hippies come from?"
The Yippies were trickster revolutionaries, who staged shamanic acts to advance social transformation. They led thousands to the Pentagon in 1967 to attempt its levitation. They crashed the galleries of Wall Street to shower money on the trading floor. They ran a pig for president. But the decade, in America's memory, belongs to the Hippies.
The misty-eyed nostalgia has created bitterness and confusion over how members of the Grateful Dead can also be members of the Bohemian Grove. Before Neil Young's change of heart, there was dismay at his support for Ronald Reagan and at his "Let's Roll" jingoism. And there's the resistance I still feel within myself to the consideration that Hunter S Thompson may have been up to some pretty weird shit with some disturbed company, even though Michael Aquino is also a fan, and Thompson said in 2003 that he didn't "hate Bush personally. I used to know him. I used to do some drugs here and there."
But where the hell did the hippies go? They entered into power, and the institutions of selfishness, because If it feels good, do it is a philosophy of life that doesn't shy from power, because it needs power to feed the habit.
The Sixties, at least as romantically recalled, is one of the most debilitating things that ever happened to progressive America. A mass, Dionysian movement for social justice became co-opted and debased into Bacchian self-indulgence, and was called a triumph.
In Breaking Open the Head, Daniel Pinchbeck tells the story of Robert, who one day in the Sixties consumed three Fly Agarics with some friends. To their disappointment, nothing seemed to happen. Until he went to the kitchen to grab a beer:
I took out the beer, turned around, and across the kitchen there were three huge mushrooms staring at me - a five foot tall, a four foot tall, and a three foot tall mushroom. The mushrooms were red and yellow and they had little eyes and little mouths. They looked just as solid and real as me or you.
Robert and the mushrooms stared at each other, until the largest asked, "Why did you eat us?" Robert thought, and then replied, "I was just following my dream."
The mushrooms conferred with each other. Finally they seemed satisfied by his answer. "But are you prepared to follow this path?" the tallest Fly Agaric asked. Robert answered, intuitively and without hesitation, "Yes I am." Whereupon the mushrooms vanished. Fifteen years passed before Robert realized that the path he had agreed to follow was plant shamanism.
(Unknown at the time to Robert, Paul Devereux writes in The Long Trip that "the spirits of the mushrooms might appear to the individual and converse with him directly.... The number seen depends on the number of mushrooms consumed.")
A friend of Robert's who also ate Fly Agarics received a similar visitation, and was also asked "Why did you eat us?" But he answered, "I was trying to get high." The mushrooms told him, "Well, if you ever do this again, we're going to kill you."
That was America in the Sixties, and that was its choice, and these are the consequences. And it was more than just the mushrooms talking. At almost every turn in the culture and the counterculture, the easy and the selfish were chosen over the hard and the common. Not surprising. But America and the wider world still await a vanguard to take the harder paths into sacred space that lead to sacrifice and social transformation. It's a lot to ask, but that's how Babylon gets chanted down.
By the way, a couple of good things to report, after a month of bad from Blogger.
Thanks to 'et in Arcadia ego,' RI now has an excellent footprint in myspace. And here's a sign of things to come. Our family is moving, in material space, next week, so a move in virtual space will need to wait a little bit longer. But I'm looking forward to providing a better home for this community.