Counterculture: Past and Present - 2
The term "counterculture" has lately been used with reference to the quite extraordinary upsurge of the American and, to some extent, European youth which has embodied in a number of ways the deep-seated dissatisfaction and rebellion of the new generation against the very foundations on which our official Western civilization was build. Numerous causes for this youth-movement can be and have been advanced. The revolt against the Viet Nam war added much fuel to the fire of discontent against an increasingly intellectualized, technologized, automated, and hypocritical society whose religious and political leaders still mouth sanctimonious statements belied by their everyday behavior and greed. The spreading use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs (however deplorable some of their effects) had undoubtedly a powerful cathartic effect, breaking open doors of the mind and the usual ego-defenses built by our traditional culture. The sense of impending catastrophe related to the possibility of an all out nuclear war has helped greatly to break down a collective ego-built confidence in the values of our society. Even the ambiguous and as yet unsolved mystery of the UFO ("flying saucers") added to the underlying psychic unsettlement — and this exactly one hundred years after the Fox sisters episodes which began the American Spiritualist Movement.(1)
During the last few years the young people once known as "Hippies" have to some extent disappeared. After an orgy of senseless publicity and an invasion of drug-peddlers, they had become food for the media's avidity for sensationalism. But to say, as some people in positions of educational and cultural importance self-complacently do, that the counterculture of the Sixties has faded out, or that the generation gap is now closed, is both naive and misleading. Many youth communes are still in existence and, if overt protests have largely stopped, it is because youth has learned that a premature revolution is not only futile, but meaningless. What has been learned also is that the real revolution is a revolution in consciousness, and that it can be — indeed, it must be — carried on within or at the fringe of the official culture by quietly sapping the latter's strength and credibility.
The field of action of the present aspect of counterculture is increasingly defined by "psychic" research of all kinds, and by the modernizing of old yoga techniques and spiritual-mental disciplines, most of the time under the direction of individuals claiming a more or less direct contact with — or inspiration from — occult centers in Asia or the Near East. The fascination with magic and witchcraft — good, bad, or indifferent as the practices may be — is certainly spreading; and the traditional mainstream of popular predictive astrology, with its new pseudo-scientific concern for "serious" research and its — to my mind, misapplied — statistics, is discarded or scorned by a great many youths who are looking for a more "humanistic" and countercultural astrology or "cosmopsychology," providing psychological if not spiritual guidance and what Dr. Carl Jung would call symbols of salvation. The number of persons using or claiming clairvoyance and contacts with inner guides, space people, or discarnate healers is steadily increasing. What is more, the people interested in all these manifestations of a countercultural trend, which most definitely — even if often hesitantly and only half-consciously — challenges the validity of our Euro-American cultural mainstream and of all that it takes for granted, are increasingly recruited from the above-thirty and above forty generations, and from the university and scientific field.
Counterculture is not dead; it has never been so important and significant. All the nearly unquestioned premises on which our Christian and rationalistic Euro-American tradition has been based are becoming increasingly empty of vital contents. Even the most conservative Churches are in deep crisis. And behind all this intense mental-psychic fermentation we can and should become aware that a cycle of civilization is nearing its end. Whether this end will have a cataclysmic aspect assuredly is not certain, in spite of all the psychic or even scientific prophecies of disaster flooding the collective mentality of a large section of our population. Predictions of the "end of the world" have occurred before; but though "the world" has not ended, some very recognizable kind of cycle has ended at the times indicated, and a new cultural impetus has been given. When the Millerities of America sold all their possessions and journeyed to Mt. Carmel near Haifa, Israel to witness the end of the world, our new industrial society was becoming established through the spread of telegraphic and rail communication. At exactly the expected time (May 1844), the first Persian Prophet, the Bab, was declaring that the Islamic era had come to an end and announcing the advent of the "Coming One" who, in 1863 proclaimed himself as Baha'u'llah, founder of the first detailed system of world organization.
I shall presently discuss the probable meaning of Baha'u'llah's manifestation, but it was mentioned here to point out the fact that a psychic sense of impending cataclysm marking the beginning of a new historical and planetary cycle of human evolution can be, at the same time, both correct and incorrect. In a similar sense, the facts of genuine Spiritualistic manifestations, and the dates relevant to genuine sightings of UFOs are susceptible to both correct and incorrect interpretations. When doors are open between two deeply different realms of existence and consciousness, attempts to explain what comes in and what goes out of the door are nearly always confused, for the explanation had to be formulated in terms of the culture which has developed on our side of the door. This happens inevitably when great mystics try to speak of their subliminal experiences, but also when Spiritualists or "psychics" interpret happenings, the nature of which they want to convey and make intelligible to their own conscious mind as well as to others. UFO experiences most likely come into a similar category and may not deal with strictly material machines; but here also the question may well center on what meaning we attach to the word "material."
We cannot give a really valid and historically significant meaning to all such unusual phenomena — rationally unexplainable in terms of our Euro-American science and intellectual tradition — if we are not willing, ready, and even mentally able to consider them strong indications that we are living in a period of transition between the old Western civilization, which built our Euro-American society, and a new type of culture presumably of a global nature. What we now see at work is the "invasion" of our mainstream Euro-American culture by all that in its origins — especially during the early period of formation of the Catholic orthodoxy, and also during the Renaissance and Classical centuries — it had to repudiate in order to successfully assert its essential character.
To say this does not mean that this character is basically nefarious or invalid. It has been a necessary phase in the development of the total human person and of mankind as an organic whole. No one should be so emotionally upset by the destructive aspects of our Western
civilization, and by its soil, air, water, and psyche polluting technology that he fails to see the greatness of its most significant achievement — making it possible for all men to experience their essential unity. Unfortunately however, our Western civilization has exaggerated the specialized character of that evolutionary phase; it has developed in an atmosphere of violence and fanaticism which probably could have been avoided.
Whether or not this is a fact is now beside the point. Our kind of scientific empirical knowledge has been enormously successful among materialistic and technological lines; but "nothing fails like success," and we now should know what such a statement means. It may not be too late to apparently retrace our steps and reincorporate what Europe for so long has branded heretic, devilish, and childishly archaic; but this should be only an "apparent" turnabout. What is needed is not a glorification of some past "golden age" — even if it ever existed at the physical level, which is far from certain — nor an emotional expectation of a Utopian millennium. The direction should not be behind or ahead, but toward the center — or, we might also say, toward a foundation that is now, ever was, and will remain until the close of the last lifespan of the Earth.
True Occultism (I shall capitalize the word to differentiate it form all occult or pseudo-occult doctrines and practices recently popularized) or Esotericism (which by definition should mean only what cannot be expressed in terms of our public mainstream culture) refers to this foundation. It is eonic because it remains what it is throughout an entire cycle or "eon." Today we speak of a genetic code that is formed at the time of the ovum's impregnation by a spermatozoon; this genetic code, pattern, or formula, exists at the innermost core of every one of the millions of cells of an organism. It is and remains what it was "in the beginning." In a biological sense it is the Word in the beginning — for that particular organism.
Is there such a Word for humanity as a planetary organism? If there is, how can we develop the "electron microscope" within our mind that will be able to detect its presence — or are there other ways of recognizing this presence in terms of the various functional activities it produces in the several organs of the great body of mankind?
Let us explore these possibilities.
For the meaning of the century cycle, read in Part Two, "Planetary and Social Cycles." Return
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1975 by Dane Rudhyar
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