The Beats & Hippies
In the twentieth century before 1960, a small number of Eastern religious teachers had travelled to the USA and Europe to proselytise Eastern religions. These included Swami Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, Meher Baba, D.T. Suzuki, Hazrat Inayat Khan, Charan Singh and some others.
It is therefore particularly ironic that the first large scale interest in Eastern religion and spirituality in the West in the 20th century was initiated by a loosely organised group of drug addicts, criminals, writers and "poets" commonly known as the "Beats". Even more ironic that their understanding of the ideas they were publicising was almost nil.
Although their major impact was the increase in the publicising and use of drugs, especially marijuana & LSD (though the Beats themselves more often used heroin and amphetamines) one of their rationales for this use was the increase in artistic sensation and inspiration but also a claim that some drugs gave access to experiences that were mystical, if not downright divine. These claims could be more easily validated by supposed parallels to Eastern religious experiences as Christianity and Islam were greatly opposed to such drug use.
The were also connected to the next and much larger wave of drugs and Eastern religions in the West that was publicised by leaders of the so-called "hippies".
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