July 1973, Page 26-29
Mystic Politics: Refugees from the New Left
Analysis by Andrew Kopkind
Many former political activists have recently turned to spiritualism, and they are now active in a variety of mystical sects. Andrew Kopkind examines this phenomenon.
MYSTIC POLITICS Refugees from the New Left
by Andrew Kopkind
Andrew Kopkind is a free-lance journalist now living in Boston.
Illustrations by Masami Teraoka
communicate with Mars, converse with spirits
To report the behaviour of the sea monster,
Describe the horoscope, haruspicate or scry,
Observe disease in signatures, evoke
Biography from the wrinkles of the palm
And tragedy from fingers; release omens
By sortilege, or tea leaves, riddle the inevitable
With playing cards, fiddle with pentagrams
Or barbituric acids, or dissect
The recurrent image into pre-conscious terrors -
To explore the womb, or tomb, or dreams; all these are usual
Pastimes and drugs, and features of the press:
And always will be, some of them especially
When there is distress of nations and perplexity
Whether on the shores of Asia, or in the Edgware Road …
The Dry Salvages
in our house is here,
but we're marching under the banner of Crunchy Granola and Vitamin E."
-Fragment of a conversation overheard
at an anti-Inaugural demonstration, Chicago, 1973
The topography of American political culture in this strangely suspended season is strewn with the skeletons of abandoned movements, lowered visions, dying dreams- No truces but tacit cease-fires have stilled the war on poverty, the war of the classes, the war of the worlds. In the white and middle-class field of action, at least, explicitly political energy and imagination are in short supply. Ideologies based on mechanistic analyses of power and history may not be wrong, but they are seen to be external to the lives of many whom they once moved, and irrelevant, too, to long-untended needs for peace of body, soul or mind.
But anyone who looks around can see the force behind the spiritual, religious and existential cults that have developed in the spaces where political organizations are usually found. Gurus, swamis, roshis, dervishes, gods and therapists are building impressive movements and extensive institutions while the traditional left sects contract in size and influence. Rennie Davis, once the New Leftist par excellence, has become a devoted organizer for the aggressive religion of the Satguru Maharaj Ji, the teenage Avatar (that is, God). Davis draws enormous crowds of both the curious and the faithful, at a time when it's hard to summon a minyan for a political demonstration. Although stars of Davis's magnitude have not, as yet, appeared in other cosmic constellations, it is apparent at once from a browse through any bookstore, a stroll through a college campus, or a glance through an underground newspaper that mystic chic has replaced radical fashions on the trend charts this year.
It is easy for an unreconstructed radical to dismiss the New Mysticism as bourgeois escapism, mass-psychological deviation, or an inevitable (and insignificant) historical retreat before the next revolutionary offensive. Perhaps it is all of that, the varying interpretations implying only the various perceptions and ideologies. But it is more, too: there is a spirit which connects the political movements of the last decade with the spiritual movements of this one, and a style as well. Although a community of yogis and a collective of radicals may see their lives and their work as vastly different in content and purpose, in the current American context they appear driven by many of the same incessant impulses, haunted by the familiar fears, baffled by the old perplexities. Class, race and sex; bureaucracy and authority; love and distance; alienation and integration; rationalism and spontaneity: the energies which create and destroy social movements act on the cosmic ones as well. It's more than coincidence (and even more than economics) that lures foreign mystics and masters to America in these last/first days of an imperial era. The spreading decay nurtures a full garden of revolutionary and mystical blooms, and they grow together from the same rich and rotting soil. And it is neither wise, nor useful, to call them flowers of evil or of good.
I've been trying to make sense of the phenomenon of politics-into-mysticism, which this spring seems to have exploded into some new level of social importance. I don't mean to exaggerate the prevalence of the syndrome, nor romanticize the starring personalities, nor mystify the mystique. After all, most of us have dabbled in this or that Eastern philosophy, tripped out on drugs, or encountered some transcendental psycho-cosmic therapy over the course of the last few years. Some people have been quietly doing "spiritual work" in a room, an ashram, a zendo or a mountainside. Moreover, there is an honorable tradition of Western intellectuals-Huxley, Isherwood and Eliot, for three examples-incorporating certain Oriental and mystical elements into their world-view.
But for some reason that is all comprehensible, if sometimes peculiar. Private head trips seemed to be adjuncts or companions of social movements, rather than replacements or alternatives. They were encouraged for a sense of philosophical "balance," and tolerated as "experiments" in self-understanding. But now, what was only a tendency has reached a stage of critical mass, a spiritual movement with a material and manpower base, concerned with cosmic consciousness and personal enlightenment, whether divinely or circumstantially inspired. And in some ways, in certain areas, it supersedes the politics of the `60s.
Page 28 & 47-50
[THE SPIRITUALISM OF THE NEW LEFT]
The Zeitgeist of the political generation of SNCC, SDS and Weatherman-the "student" radical movements-always had its existential and spiritual side beneath the hard edge of political action. I'm thinking of Bob Moses disappearing from SNCC when he felt his ego attaching itself to the organization and its policies; of SDS turning on with dope and rock in the "Sergeant Pepper" summer of 1967; of the Liberation News Service spinning off a magical mystery commune in the Massachusetts woods from its Manhattan Marxist center; of women and homosexuals leaving "anti-imperialist" politics for what was condemned then as "the politics of personal liberation." Seen from the radical perspective, there was an anti-political contradiction to every political style, a non-rationalist counterpoint to every reasoned position.
But from another vantage point-the apolitical, spiritual perspective of good vibrations-transcendent consciousness, not social upheaval, was the basis of the times that were changing. Politics was simply (or perhaps not so simply) an old-fashioned obstacle in the way of universal enlightenment. It surprised me to hear young communards in Vermont name "politics" as the source of their oppression, in conversations among older radicals who were discussing oppressive racism, sexism, corporatism, or whatever. Acid, yoga, touchy-feelie, flower-power and bucolic communalism were base substances of the generational revolt. For people in that frame of mind, Marxism, Marcuse and Mao got in the way of the development of a passionate, non-rational, transcendental sensibility.
Historically, those two perspectives existed in more or less the same space: that is, in the institutional, psychological and existential lives of young white people in America. Acid freaks in the East Village and Weatherpeople in Chicago were in most ways different-and yet they were in the same "space" in the culture. A balance was struck so that the political and the personal, the external and the internal, the organizational and the existential forces did not seriously encroach on each other, either in the population or in any one individual. For those two perspectives happened within each one of us as well as within the generational community. A political organizer, for example, could go off for a month tripping by the sea and it would be cool; or a student strike leader might join a lamasary in the mountains and the balance would not tip.
But the historical redefinition of the '60s generation and the student movement now has drastically altered the relationships within the culture, distorted the elements of that "space." Institutionally, there are few ongoing political organizations in the left, and those that remain keep limiting their appeal by hardening their lines and stiffening their demands. The Communist Party, the Trotskyist sects, the Revolutionary Union, the Labor Committees and Progressive Labor gave up long ago on white middle class youth. The temporary anti-war coalitions have no significant lives beyond this or that demonstration. As a matter of fact, it is impossible for most people to express their ideas politically in an organization that takes them seriously.
Psychologically, the political perspective has become alienating and unsettling as support drains and the circumstances of the "real world" seem to change only for the worse. My impression is that many people who once found the universe of political action and ideology meaningful and enlivening, now find it empty and boring-and on top of that, they feel guilty for being bored.
Finally, in existential terms, it is particularly difficult nowadays to lead an integrated, authentic, sense-making life in a political way; that is, to live out in everyday terms those social values which are inherent in the political perspective. The projects, collectives, newspapers, offices of the political movements are mostly gone or transformed, and there are few ways to find support-of any kind-for the good political life in the workaday world.
Young people who were "radicalized" in the '60s could (if they looked) find activities, homes, communities and work in which to express those radical values that had changed their lives, their sense of themselves. Now, mysticism, spiritualism and therapeutics provide the ready shelters for the politically lost or strayed-and also pick up naturally those who had no other home. There are new organizations, communities and institutions to join; a new way to make sense of the world and provide a meaningful and hopeful outlook; a new program for work and life in accord with a belief system amidst a structure of support.
[THE CONVERSION OF RENNIE DAVIS]
The spectrum of trips is so broad that it may not be possible to include the whole band in a single analysis-or even in one coherent description of the phenomenon (the same might have been said of the political range of the mid-'60s). These things change rapidly, but as of this week I have friends in a Zen community on the coast of Maine, an Arica house on the beach at Santa Monica, a Gestalt-Sufi retreat in Berkeley, an ashram in New Hampshire, a messianic religious organization's headquarters in Colorado, and several related non-geographical regions of the mind. All of these New Mystics were New Leftists, feminists, radicals and activists of one kind or another a few years ago. I've spent some time with two of them in recent weeks, and their conversions, conditions and activities have given me some illustrations of the larger phenomenon.
Rennie Davis became a devotee of the Satguru Maharaj Ji at the end of a course of events that included dreams and mystical experiences, the Indochina cease-fire, and a visit with Madame Binh in Paris. In the first of the dreams (as he related it to me), Davis was at the speaker's rostrum in an enormous auditorium. He felt some anxiety because he was not sure what he was supposed to say. Suddenly "every Vietnamese I ever knew" and a lot more came into the hall. They were "blissed out," brimming with joy and confidence and a sense of victory. Davis awoke similarly joyful, some of his anxieties allayed about his deeply-felt responsibility for carrying on the anti-war political struggle.
A few days later he awoke from a deep sleep at 4:30 in the morning (his tale continued) sensing the presence of a close woman-friend on his bed. He reached out to touch her but she was not there, at least on the level of "ordinary" reality. Just at that moment the phone rang. It was, by no mere coincidence, that woman. She asked him to come to her apartment, not far away. Davis dressed and went to her; when he arrived, she was in a yogic prayer position, her palms together in the "namaste" gesture, her head lowered and her eyes closed. Silence. Then, she spoke as in a trance: "All your sins are forgiven. You go for all of us."
The next day Davis was off to Paris to see Madame Binh, but at the airport he met an old friend-from the May Day organization that directed the demonstrations in Washington in 1971-who had become a devotee of the Guru Maharaj Ji. In the course of a transatlantic conversation with the friend and his companions, Davis was given an airplane ticket to India. He did stop in Paris, saw Madame Binh, found her-of course-"blissed out," and flew off to India. After several ambiguous encounters with the Guru Maharaj Ji and His entourage, Davis found himself holed up with the young God Himself in some Himalayan retreat, where one day he received "the Knowledge" in a blinding transcendent experience that seems to be the sum and substance of the Satguru's theology. The other several days were spent discussing the bureaucratic and organizational development of the Divine Light Mission and the now-in-formation Divine United Organization. Davis will probably direct the DUO; he has just been appointed vice president in charge of the Divine Light Mission.
"I was impressed by the fact that an organization like this could exist worldwide," Davis said in an interview not long ago, "and that I would have so little consciousness of it. The strength of the organization is just absolutely remarkable. It's not just a spiritual strength, either. The Guru Maharaj Ji has 5,000 mahatmas [disciples with direct experience of "the Knowledge"] . Most of them are based in India, but increasingly they're learning English and other languages and are traveling to other nations. He's in every continent now except for the Socialist countries, and He announced that next year He's going to Russia and the year after that He's going to China and by 1975 everyone on the planet will know that He's here.
"In the United States there are now 150 centers oriented around the Guru Maharaj Ji. They're all hooked up with Telex machines and WATS lines. Next year Guru Maharaj Ji is going to build, probably in California, a city that will use all the advance methods of technology to insure that the air is pollution-free, cars will be run on electricity instead of gasoline. It will be an architectural wonder, and it will be-according to Him-a concrete demonstration of what it means to have Heaven on Earth. When you see the organization that He's assembled in two and a half years and you see the forces that are coming together for this city, for a huge festival in the Houston Astrodome next fall, which is going to launch the Divine United Organization-you realize that there is an incredibly serious force here at work that really means to have people roll up their sleeves and get down to work with the problems of this material world. I think the combination of a politics and a spirit joined together in one form led by God Itself is a very far-out vision."
The social organization of the Divine Light Mission, the religion and the ashrams (the centers where people work, live and pray) has a lot in common with the administration of New Left offices, activities and project houses. There's a certain warmth and good feeling in the ashrams that has not been around the "straight male Left" for many years, although some feminist and gay projects have experienced similar relationships. In the Guru Maharaj Ji's ashrams there is a "house mother" who cooks, washes up, irons clothes and serves the food. The heavies are, of course, all men. According to Davis, consciousness of sex roles is still, regrettably, low among the Guru Maharaj Ji's devotees because of their own political backgrounds, the Indian influence, and such factors. But in any case it doesn't matter. "Are you oppressed as a woman in the ashram?" Davis asked the "house mother" of a Manhattan ashram as she was serving up our health-food lunch. "Oh no," she laughed gently. "We all serve the Guru Maharaj Ji."
The playful 15-year-old Satguru (Perfect Master, or Avatar) prophesizes global apocalypse, although how good or bad it turns out depends on the extension of His teaching and the universal acceptance of "the Knowledge." Politics as Rennie Davis knew it has no function; Davis's own decade-long involvement in the Movement was simply "preparation" for his organizational role as "Rajdut," or Messenger of God, or Divine Organizer (the Hindi word was the brand name on the Divine Motorcycle, which the Guru Maharaj Ji let Davis ride in India; he took it as a symbol of his new position vis-à-vis the Satguru).
[SALLY KEMPTON AND THE ARICANS]
A few days after I saw Rennie Davis in the ashram in New York City, I visited Sally Kempton in the Arica quarters on the ocean-front in Los Angeles. Kempton is a rather well-established writer who helped organize the Radical Feminists in New York and generally identified with radical, left and women's movements in the '60s. A nexus of personal and professional circumstances, some friendships with people enjoying enlightenment trips, and a traumatic death in her family prepared her for the Arica course, a systematic body of physical, psychological and meditative disciplines developed by a Bolivian intellectual named Oscar Ichazo (see also Ichazo's Psychocalisthenics).
For what it's worth in the world of professions and performance, Kempton is considered a remarkably intelligent and sensitive writer; perhaps, as an old SDS heavy told me recently, "the smartest one of us all." She was not herself a leader of the male left, but her articles (in the Village Voice and Esquire) and organizing activities in radical feminism were important to the development of the women's movement. I know her well; she spent a lot of time at the farm commune in Vermont where I once lived, and I was always aware of the ongoing struggle in her consciousness between contending values of intellectual performance and emotional integrity: in simpler (and perhaps too simplistic) terms, work against love. It was a kind of struggle I found replicated in myself, in many other radical men, and in a few women. I'm not surprised to see such women in such a place as Oscar Ichazo's Arica.
"Oscar," who is in his 40's, learned various mystical disciplines and Eastern martial techniques at an early age, and developed a more or less coherent body of eclectic mysticism and psychotherapy which he taught to a small number of students /patients/ followers in the city of Arica, in Chile where he settled. Claudio Naranjo, the Berkeley post-Beat, proto-Hip, trans-Esalen therapist, heard of Oscar's work with psychiatric patients, and in time sent several dozen Big Sur types and arty freaks to Chile to take the long course that Oscar had worked up. They returned to America a little less than a year later, and at Oscar's urging and direction set up an Arica Institute in New York City. Ads in the New York Times and elsewhere announced the $3,000, three-month course to be given in a big hotel on Central Park South. But the expected hordes of corporate executives and ruling-class representatives did not sign up to save themselves and America, and the scale of the operation was quickly reduced in price, length of training, and expectations for universal salvation. It did, however, attract a number of show-biz and literary types who underwent serious psycho-cosmic traumas and emerged somewhat more "awake" than they had been previously. Oscar's technique is sui generis, but generally employs elements of Gestalt, Sufi, Yoga, Zen, T'ai Chi and other disciplines to achieve high consciousness, self-awareness and joyful social relations.
The atmosphere in the Arica beach house was comradely and communal, as it had been in the Guru Maharaj Ji ashram. The Aricans were different in their hip sophistication and their trippy irony; the Divine Light devotees were single-minded and narrowly "blissed out," I thought. Arica, of course, is not a religion and Oscar is not God, nor a god, but a very high, awake and wise teacher with an apocalyptic vision of the world and a slightly less than obsessive proselytizing instinct. Sally Kempton claims that women's caucuses within the various semi-autonomous Arica schools around the country have promoted sexual egalitarianism in the once male-dominated outfit, and that interpersonal relations between members of an Arica community are "worked" more successfully by Oscar's techniques than with the methods of political and emotional struggle we all used in our late communes and collectives.
Both the Divine Light Mission and Arica involve communities of the faithful. After receiving "the Knowledge" or Waking Up, students or devotees of both systems tend to find work and pursue lives within the organizational structure. Aricans are busily finding students for the various courses ($600 for the popular 40-day "Open Path" session); Divine Missionaries are organizing the Houston rally, building the Divine City of Peace near Santa Barbara, running the slick magazine And It Is Divine, and operating the Divine Sales business that helps support the entire organization. (Both movements rely on the financial kindness of rich and super-rich devotees.)
There is not much agreement, trust or friendship between followers of the various disciplines and religions. Often exclusive claims of divinity prohibit the sharing of work; Rennie Davis says that all other cults, as well as political organizations, have "the blind leading the blind," because the Guru Maharaj Ji is God in human form. Aricans think that the strict belief system of the Guru Maharaj Ji is anti-enlightening. Then again, I've heard other unorganized students of yoga and Zen call Arica "spiritual fascism" under Oscar's authoritarian dictatorship and the tyranny of mental discipline, intellectual categories and cultish regulations. "We're not 'Arica robots,' " Sally Kempton insisted, "even though we all have the same haircut."
The organizations differ, too, in their relation to "social" work, to changing conditions in the world of war, racism, poverty, disease, oppression, revolution-"politics." The most cosmic cults seem to choose a reality in which all those elements are simply not at issue. Others see "problems" solved by the spread of one or another Good Word, a Divine Zap, or whatever brand of Enlightenment is being marketed. "There are many realities, but there is also reality," a still-political semi-yogi cautioned me once.
It's too early to draw hard psycho-historical conclusions about the movement of personnel from politics to mysticism; and the art of psycho-history is underdeveloped at best. Surely a brief glimpse at Rennie Davis or Sally Kempton, for instance, provides only the roughest sketches for a psychological interpretation of the phenomenon.
Of course, there are other examples. Greg Calvert, a former SDS national secretary in the "participatory democracy" days, has been seriously into Sufism and Gestalt Therapy. Jerry Rubin has been experimenting, as he says, "with anything that has claims in that direction," and is especially fond of Bioenergetics, EST and Gestalt Therapy. I encountered Rubin recently and found him fairly glowing with mellow vibes. He seemed both physically and interpersonally "looser" than I had ever remembered him. He said he was in a wonderful state of mind.
Another Movement man I knew well from the '60s, a radical filmmaker, theoretician and organizer, has been in and out of a Tibetan Buddhist center. His meditative phase came after the breakup of his political collective and his rural commune. He had been under intense criticism by women and other men in his group for chauvinism, authoritarianism, insensitivity to the emotional needs of others, blindess to the effects of his behavior on his comrades and companions.
The harsh criticism was painful, and although he tried to disregard some of the ways his friends' anger was expressed, he could not disregard it all. He felt imperatives for a "change of consciousness," which might be political, psychological or transcendental. He felt obliged to try on all three levels, but I always had the feeling that he found it most convenient to focus on the cosmic principle as the path to the others.
Finally, a former writer, now in his ; early '30s, spent the last year of the '60s shuttling back and forth between rather exotic radical adventures (we did a lot of spray painting that year) and Zen meditation sessions. I think he was genuinely open to proof of the validity of either way as the course that would give meaning to his life, rationalize what seemed like an anomolous nuclear family situation (wife and two children, house in a suburban district), and take him out of the world of cynical cycles of hope and emptiness. The political way, at last, offered him very little support. The Zen way was much more sure. When I last saw him, he was living in a Maine Zen community, building a house and workshop, and preparing to spend eight-hour-long sessions meditating during the winter, while his wife tended the kids at home.
[WHEN PROPHECY FAILS]
I'm not entirely sure what shades of a sensibility or patterns of consciousness all the cults share, and what they find antagonistic in each other. But there are some obvious springs which feed them all, and perhaps some common explanations for the overall phenomenon that can be found:
1. The "failure" of revolution, according to the hyperboles employed by the political movements of the late 'G0s, freaked out the people who had set their life-clocks according to the apocalyptic timetable. What happens "when prophecy fails?" In a study (under that title) of an end-of-the-world cult of the '50s, the sociologists Festinger, Riecken and Schachter saw that the moment of disconfirmation - the day that the world does not end creates extreme dissonance in the minds of those whose belief systems are based on the fulfillment of the prophecy. In other words, it becomes positively painful to experience reality rubbing against belief. To decrease the aching dissonance between reality and their understanding of it, people may change their belief systems, rationalize reality by twists in logic or facts, or organize more support for the erring belief system.
The un-success of rapid, radical political change in America; the reelection of Nixon; the "winding down" of the war in Indochina without the unconditional surrender of the Pentagon-all that created an amount of dissonance (not to mention despair) among those who had invested the most in the expectation of a quick victory. Everyone has a way of blunting that dissonance: and one of them is the acceptance of a new belief system that either confirms the success of the left in new terms, or invents drastically new terms. That is, you can say that the American radical anti-war movement and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam have won the war in Indochina-or you can say that radical politics is irrelevant and God is where it's at. Or, as in the example of Rennie Davis, you can say both.
2. The pressure many men feel, from external and internal sources, to "open up" emotionally, lower their intellectual defense, and relate to other men and women in a spontaneous, sensual, non-competitive way is widely experienced and largely unheeded. In organizations, communes and social groups, men have been unable to get it together themselves, while women have usually had the opposite experience. But the pressures are real and cannot be entirely disregarded. The political organizations and projects surviving into the '70s have all been traumatized by the crisis of sex roles, and the outcome of the resulting struggles is usually dissolution of the group-or male-dominated reaction. The Revolutionary Union, for example, has "dealt" with liberation efforts of women and homosexuals by retreating to a Stalinoid position that totally rejects the liberating developments in sexual politics of the last several years.
Some men (again, I have to concentrate on those in the young, white middle class) understand that they should find a way from their conscious behavior into their unconscious mind, to integrate action and feeling, detach their egos from matters and materials, break the barriers between intellect and emotion. By no means we know is that easy to do. "Consciousness raising" groups, on the joint model of Red Guard and radical feminist struggle sessions, are threatening, limited and long. Traditional psychotherapy is expensive, somewhat discredited or tainted in the political and youth culture, and perhaps a bit too German and Jewish to be exotic anymore. But mysticism and spiritualism provides several escapes from those pressures on and in men. It offers the alternative of an altered cosmic consciousness to a changed unconscious-a new reality of self rather than a new relationship with self. Some wise and with-it gurus, philosophers and therapists are trying to put the two ways together, to blend the Freudian and the Buddha nature. Claudio Naranjo-the Arica link between Berkeley and Chile-mixes existential and Gestalt therapy with Sufi and other Oriental mysticism. Oscar Ichazo's techniques, too, draw from the various psychiatric and spiritualist wells.
But most of the organized cults I've encountered remain strongly male-dominated. At least, the terms of the religion of therapy are set by men: precisely to deal, by evasion or attack, with those male problems of the mind/ emotion, conscious/unconscious split. My impression is that many of the women who are heavily involved in that kind of work-in Arica or Sufi, for example-also see their personal crisis in that "male-defined" way of a blockage between the conscious and the unconscious. It's not surprising that mysticism in America is a white and middle-class trip; and when one thinks about it, it is not surprising that it's essentially a male trip, too.
3. In an analogous way, mysticism is a kind of back door or side window to the non-rational side of humans. Western rationalism is undergoing another wave in the series of assaults that mark the intellectual history of this century. There is, after all, that tradition of Western intellectuals seeking philosophic counterweights to Reason and Science, materialism and logic. What's so paradoxical is that many of the new mystical cults outdo Western philosophies in their excessive categorization of psychic and cosmic states. Arica, for example, presents trainees with endless lists of ego states, levels of consciousness, physiognomic points for attention, and so on. Ultimately, an Arican assured me, the categories can be internalized by the trainee.
4. The quest for peace-of-mind encouraged the development of psychiatric schools and psychological sects throughout the 20th century, and there has been an increasing spill-over into peace-of-brain techniques and peace-of-soul ideologies. Moral Re-Armament, Positive Thinking and Dianetics/Scientology have their hip analogues in EST, Silva Mind Control, Biofeedbackery, and the various occult systems. A Gestalt theoretician writes, "Freud's famous statement, `Much has been accomplished if we can change neurotic misery into common unhappiness,' is no longer sufficient … Now we use words such as enhancement, intimacy, actualization, creativity, ecstasy, and transcendence to describe what we wish for ourselves and others. [These] theories .. . offer as the alternative to misery, not unhappiness, but joy."
For the middle class of Americans, the world offers the promise and the expectation of joy as it does the abundance of material goods, a job when needed, and interesting ways to fill up a day. The fact that most people somehow don't get the joy that's coming to them is a source of unending perplexity-and the impetus for the development of techniques, organizations and corporations to make good on the promises. The politics of joy having failed, perhaps the mystique of joy should be explored.
5. The half-true, half-mythic sense of "participation" and communitarianism that the New Left was supposed to achieve is still a relevant dream in much of the old new culture. It has been said that Rennie Davis found the Satguru in his never-ending search for the participatory democratic spirit that was supposed to infuse the ERAP organizing projects that he developed and directed. In fact, much of the nostalgia is both mistaken and misplaced: Davis and a few other early New Left men manipulated some fuzzy notions of participatory democracy and communalism for rather standard organizational and personally political ends. Still, the myth survives, and it is probably true that some people look for its realization in one or another mystery house or magical project.
6. At last, there is the gnawing notion some of us have that somewhere out there humanity is on the verge of an evolutionary leap forward, a quantum jump beyond what we now understand as "humanness" into some as yet un-understood mode of higher being. Both the Divine Light people and Aricans talk about biological changes that are occurring to raise and change the quality of being human. Rennie Davis says that homo sapiens is itself the "missing link" between what is now and what will be-soon. The message is that we do not have to wait out some Darwinian infinity for this next evolutionary stage. Aricans say that they have achieved a "one body" state among members of an Arica living and working unit.
Central to all these theories is that single, essential mystical experience, the famous insight into the "oneness" of the universe, the Acid test, the yogic perfection: the "knowledge" that all the energy and all matter in the universe are somehow infinite and undifferentiated except in our minds.
"Men's curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension,"
Eliot says near the end of that Dry Salvages passage;
"But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime's death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action."