They called it ‘The Summer of Love’. All over the western world young people were seeking a new way to relate to their world, a more spiritual, less materialistic approach to life. Their parents were ‘squares’ in comparison, too complacent by half. Seemingly content merely to have survived World War II, from now on they would make do with having a roof over their heads and some home comforts. This didn’t hack it for the younger generation who wanted nothing less than to experience and confront the great mystery of existence head on. The buzzwords of the time were ‘Cool, Groovy, Far Out’. The idea was to ‘Make Love, Not War’. Outward appearances, (along with personal hygiene for a great many, it must be admitted), ceased to matter as the kids grew their hair long and ‘let it all hang out’. In America, disillusionment with the Vietnam War added weight and a degree almost of respectability to Timothy Leary’s instruction to ‘Tune in, Turn on and Drop out’. It was 1967, the year of ‘Flower Power’.
It was also, coincidentally, the year of my birth.
Many looked to Eastern religions for the answer. While I was suckling at my mother’s breast, those of a generation before me were sitting at the feet of various gurus, modern day saints and holy men around the world who seemed to intuitively know ‘where it’s at’. Like The Beatles in India with their Maharishi, they sought an almost magical transformation, to be brought about through some yet-to-be-discovered combination of meditation, chanting (and of course drugs) that would take them straight to Nirvhana. Does such a magic formula exist? Could it ever?
Syd Banks had a deep and profound revelation about the nature of life similar, we can assume, to that experienced by many mystics, seers and shamans around the world going back thousands, if not millions of years. He saw, in an instant, that we are all held back by our misunderstanding of the power of Universal Thought to change our lives for the better. But he had another revelation besides this: there are no gurus.
Syd was a modest, soft-spoken man from humble beginnings. However this was not false modesty on his part but something much deeper, and shrewder at that. From the start he realized that if he gathered around him a group of followers who would ‘sit at his feet’ as he poured forth words of wisdom, then the message would very soon be weakened, dissipated or lost altogether. One of the things that Syd and those like George Pransky who came after him have always insisted upon is that this universal wisdom, this ultimate truth is innate in us all. There is no wise man, anywhere on the planet, in possession of more of it than you or me.
The Three Principles of Universal Mind, Universal Consciousness and Universal Thought constitute the driving force, the engine if you like, of all human experience. It could hardly be otherwise since these Principles are what create our reality, day in, day out, every moment of our lives. The only thing keeping us from realizing it is the fact that the Principles are without form. They are real, working within us, guiding us from the day of our birth, but without form. (Even as I type these words I’m aware of the conundrum that is the attempt to convey something formless in the form of words. Syd would say that the truth cannot be described. It can only be experienced).
I don’t have a personal guru. There is no formula, no mantra or chant that will magically transport us to a happier, more fulfilling life. Is this the same as saying there is no magic to be found in our lives? On the contrary: everything is magical, everything is miraculous. But when we look outside ourselves for an answer, we can only ever experience the magic of existence second-hand, which is not to experience it at all. The word ‘hippy’ has taken on a great many negative connotations over the years. It has come to mean someone of little or no consequence, at best a well-meaning New Age ‘tree-hugger’, at worst a befuddled misfit or work-shy drug addict. But those seekers after enlightenment of a bygone era were onto something. They simply wanted what you and I want. And that’s freedom. It’s a lot closer than you think.
What are you waiting for?