HIPPIES, ECO-ACTIVISTS & SIXTIES CULTURE
There is a broad parallel between environmentalism and hippies --in the sense that they are broadly idealistic, seek to change the world and the attitudes of people in it. This is in some ways similar to the early Romantics. In both cases I also think they are definite 'reactions' to a rising dominant culture --Enlightenment then or scientific materialism now --which the Romantics stoutly reject as disturbing, unpleasant or inhumane. For example, Rousseau's ambivalence both towards science and organised religion is reflected today in many environmentalists who want to keep the best of modern scientific worldview and 'progress' (eg dishwashers, some bleaches and detergents, living in houses rather than teepees), but who then want to reject its nastier bits --like nuclear power, vivisection and intensive farming. Hippies likewise.
Being at least suspicious of, if not opposed outright to scientific materialism, environmentalists and hippies certainly seem keen to retain some kind of spiritual (or holistic) paradigm within their lives, but they appear to share a rejection of systems of rigid dogma, which they might see as being 'rammed down your throat' or 'applied as a straitjacket' to your moral conduct. This could be the chief source of their reaction against most forms of orthodox religion. Their ruralism (pastoralism) and pantheism both evoke the 'noble savage' of Rousseau, as they espouse 'back to nature' and the superiority of 'natural therapies' and 'natural lifestyles'. Along with various forms of Orientalism (eg. Gandhi, Zen, Confucius, Taoism), this 'naturalism' has to be a thread common to both movements. And probably forms, for example, the basis for their aversion to pesticides and chemical pollution. The Hindu concept of Ahimsa 'non-harming' --much promoted by Gandhi, has also been deeply influential in both movements. As has Gandhi himself, of course, as a great exemplar or living archetype.
Hippies and eco-activists also espouse sharing things, and benign and peaceful cooperation --both between individuals and with nature itself. They are both broadly anti-competitive. This 'pacifism', as we might choose to call it, is clearly an important characteristic feature they both share. It is also found to some degree (perhaps in a more embryonic form) amongst the early Romantics and, of course, found best expression both in the French Revolution (slogan 'Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite') and in the works of Tom Paine and the American Declaration of Independence -- though we would be hard-pushed to find evidence of it in the behaviour of the Revolutionists themselves. Nevertheless, it was an idea swimming around in that idealistic cocktail of ideas current at that time. Many before us have also traced socialism and communism to the profound idealism and egalitarianism of the 1790's.
It also finds expression in the intense ruralism of many of the painters and poets of the early Romantic period. Thus the spirit of those times was also, arguably, centered about the idea of human dignity, freedom and friendship to all people. Indeed, it is also found as an integral part of the spirit of the founding fathers of the USA. I would venture that all of that comes very close to the egalite and 'commune-ism' of hippies and eco-activists. Though maybe for different reasons.
It is well known that many of the first European Romantics were anti-industrialists, who rebelled against machines and the ugliest, dehumanizing excesses of industrialization. They were predominantly artists, writers, poets and artisans, plus 'intellectual ruralists' and 'sentimental non- conformists'. They gave only a guarded welcome and to only very few aspects of technology, rejecting most of it out-of-hand --again, very much like modern-day hippies and eco-activists -- what we might term a 'pick-and-choose eclecticism', and as I said before, reflecting a strong ambivalence towards science.
In the case of environmentalists, many express varying degrees of 'ideological discomfort' in accepting such modern things as clean food and water, sewage and refuse disposal, gas central heating, domestic electricity supply, hot water on demand, motor vehicles, etc --all of which are undeniable products of science-led industrialism and which we all seem to take for granted as essential elements of a civilised life. Instead, the more extremes (the 'deep greens') deny that such items are even desirable let alone necessary for a civilised life. This discomfort stems largely from their knowledge of the hidden price-tag of many modern benefits --a price-tag of hidden energy costs, pollution, animal abuse, health effects, landscape despoilation, etc. That is the source of their 'virtuous discomfort'. Hippies showed a similar contempt for the trappings of modern industrial life and a desire to 'go and find their own Walden Pond'. We can easily demonstrate that these are mainstream Romantic features. These points I would maintain are fairly self-evident.
It is arguable that the early Romantics had 'already lost their religion' and pretty soon became equally disenchanted with materialist science and industry. Alternatively you might say they disliked industry and then lost their religion --it amounts to the same result. Thus they came to occupy a rather uncomfortable position in relation to both. We might term the philosophy they ultimately formulated as a form of 'sentimental humanism and the arts'. They seemed to believe in the dignity and sacred nature of human life, but not in formal religion. Science cut across one viewpoint and religion across the other. While this became their personal refuge and saviour, ideologically it 'fell between both stools' of science and religion.
The Romantic viewpoint therefore appears to stem from a 'cultural vacuum'; deriving from a disenchantment with and rejection of both ideologies on offer at the time. Or at least an ambivalent non-commitment towards both.
Yet it is also true --taking a different tack --that not all romantics were romantic, just as not all hippies were hippies or all peace-activists are that peaceful! Just as not all hippies live in teepees (or even wish to!), so not all eco-activists wreck factory farms or break into vivisection laboratories --so there are distinct shades of belief within each movement, and one presumes that these reflect different shades of commitment to a central pillar of ideas. In all these movements there exists a high degree of tolerance towards an outer fringe of 'casual takers' and 'intellectual migrants' (ideological browsers?) who come along to sit and dabble in a 'pool of ideas' for a time and then move on.
To establish more concrete links between eco-activists/hippies and Romance, we would need to trace the more distant origins both of Romanticism and of what I would term, the 'romantic impulse'.
Their anti-intellectualism might be seen as
another aspect of their subjectivism. Their ecopolitical leanings I will
touch on below. As for research methodology, we need to explore their
language and communitities and ask a range of questions about them. But most
of it it is already available to us. The literature, the songs and many of
the individuals who went through that era and picked up its essential
features. We can gain direct access to many of the figures of that era and
compile an oral history, just as we can from any person who lived through it
and shared aspects of its ideology. It is not therefore 'an impossible
conversation'. We can make a start at it. In such a situation we are
perfectly entitled to act as pioneers and develop our own methods and
evaluations of this topic. If the pioneers of social science had paid such
deference to 'theory' would, one wonders, anything have been discovered of
Beats and Hippies certainly seemed to want to turn life upside-down and reject everything. I think this is a mistaken view in some respects. We should perhaps distinguish more clearly between 60's culture as political activism, in its wider sense of being very clearly anti-authority and rebellious --which is one distinct thread, perfectly valid in its own right. But then there are also the peaceful, romantic, pastoral, (drug-crazed?) and mystical hippies. I think they might for convenience be viewed separately from the highly politicized rebellious sub-group (='marxists').
Of course, it is chiefly the peace-loving Hippies I have been writing about, rather than the 'Marxists', and this distinguishes between 'hippies' per se and 'general 60's culture', I therefore believe that there were at least 2 distinct variants --one highly politicized and protesting, anti-establishment, and the other romantic, dreamy, artistic, pacifist and mystical. Both were rebellious in various ways, but the Hippies less so politically than the Marxists. Hippies more socially and ideologically rebellious maybe?
However, instead of Goethe I would more likely choose Blake as an archetypal 'Romantic' par excellence. Visionary, mystic, Swedenborgian, painter, poet, romantic dreamer, venerator of landscape and innocence, etc. He is a far better example of Romance. He was ever-changing, radical, anti-industrial, dabbled in philosophy and mysticism and sects and was always searching for a satisfactory spiritual paradigm. John Clare, Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron, Keats, Constable, Coleridge, Friedrich, Turner, Robert Owen, John Ruskin and William Morris are also profoundly typical of Romance.
Getting back to the 60's...there were certainly internal conflicts between the two sub-groups within what can be viewed as a polarized movement. They each manifested pretty incompatible urges, but maintained a degree of apathy or tolerance towards each other, depending on your point of view. They certainly generated a tension within the movement which was very creative, though some might say there were two quite distinct though similarly active movements sharing the same time- frame, but few central dogmas. In brief we can say Hippies rejected violent protest as a waste of time and productive of only illusory social reforms. External changes in the structures of society do not always change the contents -- the minds and attitudes of the people. Thus Hippies viewed politics as rather futile tinkering with symptoms rather than dealing with deeper causes of society's woes. They thus rather sceptically regarded changes in structures as always being subordinate and inferior to changing people. The 'politicos' seemed to reject Hippies as too naive, laid-back, mystical and out of touch with political and social realities. I would maintain there is considerable mileage in both those arguments.
Consideration of that 60's buzz-word 'revolution' clearly reveals the differences between the Marxist and Hippy wings of the movement. Any revolution for the Hippies was meant to be only a revolution in the head, a revolution of attitude, which would then naturally translate into improved social conduct, peaceful tolerance and friendship to all. But the revolution the Marxists had in mind was full- blooded, political and meant just what it implied: take the means of production out of the hands of rich capitalists and place it into the hands of the workers. In >this< sense there certainly were two separate, though parallel movements with entirely different aims and agendas. And entirely different heroes. 'Hate the rich and kill the rich -- even, eat the rich' could easily have been a slogan of the Marxists, but never of the Hippies.
We might very profitably analyse the language used in the movement. And this leads us into some very interesting territory. Words like 'protest', 'rebellion,' 'liberation', 'natural', 'revolution', 'underground', 'alternative' and 'freedom' emerge as being very typical of 60's culture generally and probably equally so amongst eco-activists and Hippies.
In the case of the word 'natural', the underlying idea is that it clearly means fresh and pure; it means unadulterated, untainted, unblemished, pristine, organic and undamaged. It means unrefined and unchemicalized too. It thus means safe, harmless, good for you and holistic. The opposite, therefore, unnatural, is equated with the opposites of the above: refined, impure, false, chemicalized, corrupted, tainted, synthetic, adulterated and thus bad, harmful and damaging. Thus when we see this word natural in use in 60's talk it means organic and wholesome, good for you. That is its meaning when used in 'natural foods', 'natural living', natural community', 'natural energy' and 'natural therapies'. By implication it means harmless, benign and in harmony with nature and living things. That is its ecological credential card.
In the case of the word 'free' we find the following synonyms and contexts: natural, pure, good, flowing, creative, loose, safe, open, therapeutic, liberation, liberated, wild, energetic, good for you, let it out, let it come out, let it all hang out, catharsis, express yourself, free expression, free association, free thinker, free living, etc. Thus what is not free is the opposite and is therefore bad because it is --illiberal, unliberated, tight, uptight, suppressed, oppressed, repressed, held in, unhealthy, bad, hidden, closed, wound up, etc.
We could repeat this type of analysis for other words like 'rebellion' and 'protest' and I think we would come to similar conclusions. These words seem to lay bare the 'mental processes' of the movement and form a mirror for the culture of the time. Such terms and recurring themes can be found in almost every aspect of 60's culture and the Hippy movement. They crop up in and thoroughly permeate such subjects as food, health, landscape, lifestyle, poetry, pop music, painting, politics, travel, education, writing and psychology --to name a few. They can, of course, all be found embedded in great abundance in the song-lyrics of the whole period 1955- 75.
Much has been made of the rebelliousness of the period. Many things can be said about it. It might be seen as merely a device, a means of achieving liberation from those who would oppress, suppress and repress --usually parents, teachers, college, employers. Leary's famous injunction to 'turn on, tune in and drop out' was thus a motto for becoming liberated FROM all that and 'loosening up' to such a degree --with the aid of dope, acid, etc --as to reach a better lifestyle, gain deeper spiritual insights (?), greater self-esteem and happiness, 'do your own thing' and generally 'hang out' with others of your own kind.
This type of thinking also permeated the anti-schooling and deschooling writings of Goodman and Illich. It was proposed as a means of liberation from the oppressive ideals and lifestyles forced upon youth by parents, teachers, employers, etc. The deschooling concept also elevated the status of youth from one of immature naivety to innate wisdom --another favourite theme of the Hippies and more distantly reminiscent of Rousseau's noble savage. The rebellion 'in the school' thus comprised an escape from teacher-oppression and the creation of an alternative (youth-centred) culture. And it is when we come to mention this word 'alternative' that we touch a major ganglion of 60's culture. That was the word on everybody's lips from the great 'icons' of the movement like Leary and Ginsberg all the way down to the lowliest dopehead.
The rebelliousness also manifested as anti-intellectualism, precisely because intellectuals --eg teachers and professionals --could be construed as yet another potent group of oppressors trying to ram their culture down your throat and tell you what to think and say and feel, and that whatever viewpoint you had arrived at about the world, through your own thinking, was somehow unimportant, trivial, inferior and secondary in comparison to theirs. The dialogue in books and films of that period clearly reveals this trend. The phraseology of parents and other adults at that time implies that 'kids' have not experienced enough, know nothing, have heads filled with crazy ideas, are thoroughly irresponsible, must be told and shown what to do and are a danger to themselves and society at large without this control and domination by adults. Adults were thus party to a conspiracy against the 'raw and natural' viewpoint of the young.
In many respects, the whole 60's phenomenon can be viewed as a period of rebellion. The rebellion by youth against the apparently oppressive domination from adults and the desire to gain a 'cultural momentum', derived from accumulating sufficient alternative culture (songs, literature, drugs, lifestyle) and social confidence of their own to be able to tell adults exactly where they can go and stuff a 'culture' the 'kids' have decided to reject wholesale. Thus the counterculture was saying a big NO to all that and a big YES to youth and their own intuitive insights about the world we live in. To me there is little doubt, that Leary, Ginsberg and Co were encouraging youth to rebel against authority and to take greater confidence in their own viewpoints and in developing their own alternative forms of culture. And to continue gaining greater confidence in doing this. And to resist and repel any criticism from adults.
The rebellion against intellectuals probably also stems from a devotion to naturalism and the hatred of sophistry. Hippies tended to strongly dislike cant, humbug and high-faluting gobbledegook, preferring instead clear, down-to-earth, simple descriptions and natural spontaneity. Afterall they were 'flower people'! They emphasised the primacy of direct simple experience. This is also reflected in their love of Zen Buddhism, which is a deeply iconoclastic religious tradition, that had cut the vast and complex structure of Indian Buddhism down (first in China, then in Japan) to its barest meditative essentials and also stressed simplicity and the central importance of direct viewing, direct experience and a mocking contempt for philosophy, complexity and intellectual scholasticism. The sheer hatred Zen generated for the flowery excesses of Indian Buddhism is superbly condensed in the iconoclastic book title: 'If you meet the Buddha kill him!'.
Hence the importance of Alan Watts and D T Suzuki, who brought Zen into the Western mind. I believe this love of simplicity to be an important if neglected aspect of the movement, which manifested also in art, design, poetry, music and fashion; in recycling of clothes and in the link with the ecopolitics in general. Simplicity is venerated both as an end in itself and also out of practical usefulness. I am not saying that everything the Hippies did was practical, down-to-earth and useful, however! For example, the much-lampooned organic diets and macrobiotic vegetarianism involved chewing a rather bland mixture of brown rice, chick peas and undercooked pulses and vegetables, with the total conviction that you were chewing your way towards perfect health and some higher meditative state! And that doing this would change the world!
Another example of this stark minimalism can be seen in the fad for Haiku poetry, in minimalist music, sitar and koto music and the adoration of frugality and recycling --typical of Hippies and ecologists. Again, it strikes us as a form of anti- intellectual simplicity and a love of clarity. It also links straight to pacifism and non- harming, mentioned already, and to the ideas of a 'no waste' lifestyle that has minimal impact. It also mates up with the general orientalism.
However, we should remember that both Zen and 60's culture were not just simplicity-loving, they were also strongly 'plebeian', in the sense that they both stressed direct access to the 'inner teachings' by any ordinary person and that no great in-depth study or preparation was required for someone to become an expert. The expert was another plague upon their freedom to just 'be'.
They shared a contempt for experts and that formed a further basis for their anti- intellectualism. In their language they might say 'You don't need a PhD to become cool! The only 'credentials' you need, man, are some dope and a few tabs of acid!' In that sense many were inspired to leave university and 'drop out' of the mainstream. An act which was loudly applauded by the leaders of the movement as a very courageous step to take. We might say that this again reveals their paranoia about control from others (eg parents and intellectuals) and that their obsession with 'throwing off the shackles' was such a dominant thread. To what extent their rebellion was more perceived than real is hard to say. Another connection here comes again with orientalism, the bland simplicity of which touched psychology in a big way. The Zen injunction that just by sitting gazing at a wall will solve all your hang-ups was taken seriously, and the big impact of orientalism upon therapy and counselling since mid-60's is well-documented: eg Laing and Szasz as much-revered debunkers of psychiatry.
However, this debunking and anti-jargon strand is far less true of the Marxist wing of the movement, members of which were more than happy to discuss at length with you their abstruse and tortuous interpretations of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and the doings and writings of Che Guevara, Mao and Castro.
Though Rachel Carson's epoch-making 'Silent Spring' was published in 1963, little tangible happened until the campaigning skills of 60's activists --post-student riots, post-civil rights, post-drug campaigning --were brought to bear upon the subject and took the environmental movement into the hearts and minds of the masses. That did not start in 1963, but towards the end of the 60's and even into the early 70's. It is therefore arguable that Carson's work might well have 'fallen on deaf ears' completely were it not for the Hippies who chimed with it, took it up, refashioned it, vocalized it, made a cause out of it and carried it into a real movement in its own right. In this sense, therefore, eco-activism comes after Hippies and is deeply indebted to them. It is indelibly stamped with their vision of the world. It rode piggy-back on their earlier, ground-breaking campaigning of the 60's. It shares their non-harming pacifism and love of organics.
Having looked in this way at some of the main themes of 60's culture, we are now in a good position to do the same for the 19th century Romance movement and to bring out some of the incredible parallels which I think reside just below the surface. In both, we find the massive flowering of Romance, creativity, art, poetry and literature. In both we find rebellion against the established order of oppressors, pacifistic experiments in communal living, experiments in socialist education, dabbling with recreational drugs, early forms of environmentalism, sexual liberalism and an incipient undercurrent of orientalism. Both are anti-science, anti-materialism, anti-industrialism. They are broad-church and Bohemian, anti-expert, deeply humanistic, exuberant and life-affirmative. Both stand against the dead-end nihilism of a world dominated by science and devoid of any form of spirituality. In both we find the critique and rejection of mainstream culture and the setting up of a liberal, laissez-faire alternative, 'underground' culture, run chiefly (as with Hippies) by intellectual rebels who soon became the iconic 'darlings' of the movement.
The underlying threads in each era are very similar, but they reach the surface differently. For example, in the 19th century the most important drug was opium, rather than hashish, the orientalism was newly-discovered Hinduism, Buddhism and Theosophy, plus the mysticism of the Near East, along with interest in magic, paganism, phrenology, spiritualism, ancient Egyptian religion, etc. The socialism, communal living and deschooling we find in Robert Owen, John Ruskin and William Morris and their many associates. The art and literature are so familiar as to need no mention. The environmentalism surfaced chiefly as a reverence for the sanctity and purity of landscape and mountains, collecting plants from around the world and building stunning gardens. The social rebellions and political dissent were focused mainly against those tangible evils of poverty, inequality, privilege, class struggles, industrialism, worker's rights, colonialism, slavery, suffrage and the stifling oppression of social and religious conformity.
The 'philosophers' include Thoreau, Emerson and Whitman in the US, Robert Owen, William Morris, Bergson, the Rossettis, plus the impressive 'authority' of the grand corpus of all creative works of the early Romantic poets and painters like Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Coleridge, Byron, Turner, Constable, Blake, John Clare, Friedrich and other intense pastoralists. There is also perchance a parallel between the sexual liberty of the 60's and the indulgence of prostitution in 19th century Paris, London and Berlin. Both might be seen as offshoots of the visual arts, and especially the liberality of painters of the nude --which was compulsory training for the serious art student in all European Art Schools. This liberality was chiefly found in Paris, where toleration of transvestism, prostitution, fetishism and homosexuality was also apparently 'de rigeur'.
From this cursory glance, I think it is fairly clear that the two periods manifest some very strong parallels, even though the early Romantic period was quite long, lasting roughly from the 1730's to 1900, while we might conveniently stretch the Beat & Hippies era to a max of 20 years, lasting from c1955-75. This difference in span is probably a reflection of differences of speed of life and the communication systems available in each period. As I hope I have shown, both periods seem to share an underlying fabric of common aims and purposes and very similar themes, subjects and activities. Indeed, the Beat and Hippy period is very like a miniature revisitation of the 19th century artistic renaissance. Just as creative, just as challenging, just as rebellious, just as mystical, just as liberal, though briefer and thus glowing brighter and more intensely than its natural 'grandparent'.
I would have little difficulty in supporting most of the above ideas with some quotes from:
More Distant Origins
To sort out the more distant origins of Romance we might strive to show by stages how Martin Luther and King Henry VIII (of England) can in many ways be regarded as the founders of the modern worldview.
As the joint founders of the Reformation, they set freethinking going by releasing societies in N Europe from the iron grip of the Roman Church. This, combined with printing, not only set minds buzzing with new ideas, but enabled folk to communicate their new ideas to each other. This entirely new situation - the Reformation - continued into the 1600's and 1700's a process which gave rise to two main developments within protestant N Europe (chiefly England, Netherlands, Germany):
a. the beginnings of science as a possible worldview, ie. freethinking about the way the world is/might be - as opposed to the received view of Christian dogma, and...
b. the active search by such freed minds for alternative systems of philosophy --eg Descartes, Locke, Hume, which could explain the workings of the world. They were essentially materialistic philosophies (except that of Berkeley) --chiefly through a distinct and entirely new 'turning outwards' away from religious dogma and towards the outer physical world.
This new situation in turn gave rise to a new breed of people *with a sceptical view of religion*, *with little or no religion at all* and certainly with *very few deeply- held preconceptions about the world around them*, but with the beginnings of a devotion to scientific materialism as an upcoming ideology, which showed, to them, great promise. Combine all this with further economic expansion, scientific experimentation and the gradual winning of political freedoms (especially in US, England, Holland and eventually France) it gave rise to discoveries which would lead to industrialism. It also led directly to the Enlightenment, centred chiefly in France --ironically in a country still under the twin grip of the Church and the Sun King, Louis XIV --the very archetype of the old-style European king.
It also gave rise to the 'agricultural revolution' in the early 1700's and then the 'industrial revolution' somewhat later. In both, traditional and slow, people-based craft and 'cottage industries' (and ways of doing things) became first threatened and then eclipsed, by faster methods using machines. First mechanical machines and then steam-driven ones. The use of coal, iron, steam-power and railways led straight into the often dehumanizing mass-production methods of the 'machine age' and factory. These are all fairly tangible and concrete manifestations --as if we need reminding --of scientific materialism. Yet while some continued (in studied ignorance?) to paint idyllic rural scenes, signifying the sanctity of landscape (eg Gainsbrough, Constable, Friedrich), many Romantics condemned the grim industrial scenes, yet felt fascinated enough to paint some of them, (eg. Turner, Joseph Wright, Loutherbourg, Blechen, Cotman). And even the arch-romantic Constable's superb 'Brighton Beach with Colliers' (1824) reveals what a time of contrasts, change and ambivalence it really must have been.
After the Reformation, the non-Catholic Christian religion quite literally splintered into a thousand fragments or sects. They were all attempts - it is arguable - to become free from whatever 'oppressor' their perception inspired them to rebel against. They were also experiments in liberty and freedom to choose. Celebrations in their various ways of personal liberty as well as reaffirmation of distinctive personal religious revelation. This is just as true of Swedenborg (1688-1772), Luther (1483- 1546) and Wesley (1703-91) as it was about Calvin (1509-64) and George Fox (1624-91).
It is rather sad that today we all carry with us at least a rudimentary sketch in our heads about the development of science - which seems grossly to dominate our every breath - while very few of us have a similar sketch about Romance, or art or philosophy or history of ideas. The balance that tipped towards domination by science and away from the arts needs to move back.
Getting back to Romance, the Protestant tradition arose and mainly thrived in England, Holland and Germany, also Scandinavia - the north of Europe in general rebelled against the tyranny of the Pope and Catholic Church in the 1520's and 1530's. As a result it shook itself free from those tight controls on printing, beliefs and developed freedoms for people to say, do, write and think what they liked. Knowing this link with Protestantism helps us to understand the social progress of homeopathy.
'The Church felt more or less clearly that the growth of knowledge was a menace to its own position.' [Rogers, p.206]
Printing is another key theme because...once printing really got going (originally in the 1400's) it was dynamite. The Church had sat on huge heretical tracts for centuries and thus very much controlled the beliefs of the people. Once printing liberated people's freedom of thought and belief there was no longer any constraint upon open dialogue and free intercourse of ideas - political, philosophical, religious, etc. To begin with of course, printing was not very contentious because it was mainly liturgical and under the full control of the Church. But that didn't last long and people started printing things that were more secular, and which might be banned as heretical, eg Galileo (1564-1642) - his whole collision with the Church forms a splendid example.
It is also an example of the way societies try and deal with deviance. Turning to the modern era, it is very little different from the way Science (nowadays in many ways the social equivalent of the mediaeval Church) has treated people like Velikovsky, Cold Fusion, Sheldrake, Uri Geller, Gauquelin and Benveniste...to name a few. Heresy cannot be tolerated and must be invalidated, squashed and intimidated: deviantised and demonised to the nth degree. How far have we actually progressed at all, one wonders?! That follows essentially the same pattern as their treatment of alternative medicine and astrology
Thus the Protestant tradition can be viewed as a tradition of reaction by individuals against the powerful forces of mass control and autocratic social control - ie. the Mediaeval Church - and pushing towards greater and greater reform and liberalisation. They were also forces which controlled belief. Those forces were successfully challenged and gradually broken down so that people could believe whatever they wanted, say what they wanted and practice what they wanted. They have obtained these freedoms - only painfully slowly and in a piecemeal fashion. So throughout the 1600's and 1700's in the North European countries these freedoms were first won and then indulged and explored. In philosophy, in science, in the arts - all these made very rapid progress, dogmas and superstitions being chucked overboard and new ideas emerging to replace them.
Thus the Protestant countries became the centre of a huge expansion of human knowledge. Science and philosophy (which at that time were indistinguishable) was the first big expanding area of knowledge and a natural result of people having the freedom to look at the world and figure things out for themselves, instead of being TOLD what to believe. This was the replacement of superstition and 'received dogma' with natural inquisitiveness, direct insight and independent thought (rationalism). It is no coincidence, geographically, that all this mainly emerged in Germany, England, Holland and France, also Scandinavia and Switzerland - not the mediterranean Catholic countries (except Galileo et al). They were predominantly Protestant areas, in which people had much greater freedom to say what they wanted with impunity.
The Romantics came next and were very largely reacting against the lack of spirit and mystique in much of the mechanical and materialistic notions being thrown up by 'raw science'. Reactions against materialism in its various guises. They wanted the freedom and the liberty of thought and ideas that Protestantism and science had brought, but they also wanted a little more romance and sentimentality than they were getting. They rejected out of hand the idea that we are just automatons as Hobbes (1588-1679) and Descartes (1596-1650), and later Newton (1642-1727), had proposed. They wanted to live in a world containing some bliss, optimism and love and not a dead-end, cold, uncaring, nihilistic machine-type universe. They were also very concerned about the way mechanisation seemed all too often to translate into brutal economic exploitation of labour at a social level and the way machines were destroying people's traditional lifestyles and occupations, crafts, etc. That was another more overtly politicised strand.
Thus the romantics were passionate about nature, fresh air, clean water, good sweet nature, food, sweet things in life and beautiful pictures as well as wonderful music, etc. Mozart (1756-91), Keats (1795- 1821), Shelley (1792-1822), Byron (1788-1824), Wordsworth (1770-1850), Constable (1776-1837), Stubbs (1724-1806), Turner (1775-1851), et al are all good examples of that strand. That tradition is still active and spans right through to modern times. But it has always tended to have a religious element because people do tend to want to believe in something spiritual rather than nothing (nihilism) and other than molecules and mechanical watches that run the universe.
So some religious belief - pantheism even - teams up with Romanticism time and again. Indeed, the romantic movement itself fed hungrily on a vast diet of alternative religions, the Greek myths, the Roman and pagan religions, NeoPlatonism, ideas from the orient and also from Druids and pagan European beliefs. Thus Romantic tradition reached back to older European roots, predating Christianity and that was not at all popular! This is very apparent in the visual arts and theatre, but also in novels and poetry. The artists like Blake as I said before, were drawing upon these unChristian and anti-Christian traditions. That includes esoteric and secret traditions like Paracelsus, magic, Kabbala, Swedenborg, occult, Knight's Templars, Rosicrucians, and all types of mythology, etc. Opium and Cannabis also become important features - Wordsworth, Coleridge (1772-1834), De Quincey (1785-1859), Southey (1774-1843) et al, and later Baudelaire (1821-67) & Co.
It is arguable that the Romantics have had 4 major phases of expansion and flowering. The first was coincident with the Reformation and included the Italian artistic Renaissance - even though that was still mainly working with religious forms. The second would be the flowering we normally think of as the Romantic period in literature, art and music, c1700-1890. The third would be the Cubist, Dadist and Surrealism movement roughly 1900-1940, and the fourth has been the whole Pop music phenomenon say 1956-present, and especially the psychedelic era c1964-1978, which was a particularly fertile, prolific and articulate period of artistic and political upheaval and expression. These phases are also marked by intervening periods of relative quiescence during which a degree of digestion and realignment occurs of the manifestations of the preceeding epoch. The environmental thing is also an expression of Romanticism. Homeopathy and all alternative therapies also show clear links with the Romantic tradition.
Most typically homeopathy is essentially spiritual and anti-science (anti mechanism). It is essentially vitalistic and rejects the materialistic diktat that matter is the cause of everything or the only reality. It re-affirms the spiritual nature of the human and animal worlds. In the case of homeopathy, it arises as a queer mix of science and romanticism. Religious belief seems to be confirmed by homeopathy and that is perhaps one reason why it was very popular with clerics in all countries and the preferred medical system amongst their kind. That can and did go both ways - towards traditional Christianity and towards pagan beliefs.
As for books, Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy gives a brisk and uneven account - concentrating only on main figures, while Arthur Kenyon Rogers' A Student's History of Philosophy (Macmillan, 3rd Edition, 1935, US - quoted above) is nothing short of brilliant, as it gives all the background history of ideas that Russell misses out. It still lacks detail though. Schenk's The Mind of the European Romantics (Constable, 1966, London) is also an excellent source of ideas and details. Tarnas is also excellent and also Berlin's many essays in this field.
I therefore trace the roots of Romance both as a *reaction against* the Enlightenment (and thus against science) to *protests against* the ugliest excesses of early industrialization in N Europe and also to the weakening grip of organised religious dogma on the hearts and minds of the people. Romance therefore comprises a *reaction against* scientific materialism and the ugliness of industrialism as 'outrages visited upon the human spirit'. It is equally a *reaction against* the loss of faith in organised religion and the grim spiritual nihilism which that seemed to invoke in the minds of many. A view of the universe as a mechanical machine, and humans running around like automatons with no minds, is a fairly justified interpretation to make of the same clockwork vision conjured up by folks like Hobbes, Descartes and Newton, whether it was intended by them in that way or not.
Thus, from 1700's on through to 1900's we find folks searching for spiritual meaning and reassurance in a darkening world. It is my contention that that search still continues now and occasionally erupts into new movements such as Hippies and eco-activism. It is a process which is still active and which may never die out completely. As I am sure many hippies and eco-activists would say: meaning might prove ultimately to be a far more precious commodity to us than the myriad, tangible, material comforts which science and technology have bestowed upon us --as also implied in the end of the film 'Silent Running'. Or as also seen in the more recent events at Waco and the San Diego Hale-Bopp mass suicide. These might be seen as genuine searches for meaning in an apparently uncaring and mechanistic universe.
In the above senses, therefore, I find it fairly transparent that Hippies and Eco- activists appear before us as slighty 'different fruits' on the same 'tree' as their forebears, the Romantics. And thus from this thesis, we might decide that Romance, even in our modern, science-dominated world, could be perceived as a genuinely perennial philosophy, with strong roots seeming to plunge down deep into our collective psyche. And which seem periodically to throw up vibrant new shoots of renewed activity --and even vigorous growth --no matter how efficiently or frequently its gnarled old branches get hacked down by what we might term the 'chain-saw of scientific progress'. In this sense therefore, I am tempted to disagree with the notion that Romance is ending --transforming itself again, maybe, yes, but surely never truly ending.
Finally, I am tempted to conclude that the 'romantic impulse' has always existed and is an integral part of our consciousness. Periodically, it gets abused, chopped down, and buried, but then it reappears, strangely new, shining, Phoenix-like, hydra-headed, gussied up in new clothes, as new ideologies, which seem radically different, but which, upon closer inspection share an underlying golden thread which runs through them all - they are branches from the same tree. And that tradition we can surely trace back even further, before the Enlightenment and beyond the Renaissance into Neoplatonism --Plotinus, Eriugena, and then back to Plato and the Greats. And also through the secret traditions back to Ancient Egypt, Pythagoras and the like.
Decline of hippies
We now come to another problem of why they declined and faded from view. Well they faded very slowly and were still around up to 1980 or so in considerable numbers. They seemed to diminish very fast in the early 80's and were gone completely by 1986. Perhaps many of their ideals had been realised in a discreet and subtle way. People did become more loosened up and liberated and aware of sexism, ecology and mind expansion, but it did not change the world. The longed-for revolution did not come and 'Jerusalem was not builded here'. In that sense disappointment set in and it gradually faded. The movement had failed to change those large and immovable structures of all societies. Dope and acid were not legalised and they probably never were the panacea for all society's ills as extolled by Leary and Ginsberg. Thus the dream turned sour and faded, persisting only here and there in a dwindling pockets of followers.
Further RamblingsWe have so far been stressing that 60's contained at least two subcultural strands --pacifistic hippies and Marxists. We can probably go further and call it a 'multithreaded' culture or period and that enables us to identify several strands within it. For example, there were straight dopefiends, there were vegetarian and wholistic health organics and environmental types; there were pure politicos such as the Marxists, Maoists, anarchists etc; there were also pure pop music and rock music freaks who did not go for the other stuff entirely but were just eclectic according to their own tastes; finally there were the Leary and Ginsberg free-wheeling, change-the-world through dope and free love types. You could go on identifying more and more fine splits within the movement and between the different factions, but if we just choose to say there were many different subtypes within a two-way split culture I think that will suffice.
Two questions therefore arise: first --why were they sharing ONE culture if they were so different? And second, what features actually united them into one culture? These are opposite sides of the same coin. Were they one culture and agreeing on everything? I don't think so --we both have shown various ways in which they were quite distinct from one another. Therefore we need to identify those common underlying ideas which they did share and which broadly identify them as 'sixties' persons.
I would provisionally suggest that all the sub-groups basically shared (at least) the following features in common:
Once we identify these common strands which underpin the whole era we can then see that the differences between the various subgroups were more apparent than real and that they all 'swam in the same river' to such a huge degree that these differences did not really matter very much. Nor did they add up in any big-deal way to make a huge difference most of the time. Any so-called friction between the different subgroups was minimal because there was a vast terrain of commonality, of basic flow-of-events which everyone approved of and agreed about. They approved of most things that happened because most things that happened were in accord with the above list and therefore obtained the approval of all. That was true for a remarkably long period of time: from late the 50's right through to mid-70's -- generally speaking.
Then it began to break up, became stale, people split off into much more distinct groups and, most important of all, the underpinning framework of commonality began to fragment and break up. The attraction for freedom of expression and the new and youth and art began to fade and people began to become obsessed with other things like jobs, money, partners and children, buying a house, etc and the whole dream faded from view and moved from centre-stage into a blurred background. Reasons? Shifts of viewpoint? tired of doing the same old thing? new perspectives? new attractions? boredom?
Anyhow, the frictions that were previously happily tolerated as minor and insignificant now became amplified and massively important and that may be why in retrospective analyses everyone sees the decade in radically different ways. And that is why its interpretation in the media, and its digestion in the public mind, has been so problematic and why so many diverse ideas have sprung up about what the decade meant and what its underlying vices and virtues actually were.
The end of the Hippy period is difficult to pinpoint, in many ways it just faded slowly through the mid-70's. Its essence was certainly still around strongly in 1976. But my guess is that the rise of violent anti-past-glory Punk in 1976-80, the election of right-wing dictatorial figures like Thatcher (May 1979) and Reagan (1980), and the shooting of Lennon in Dec 1980 certainly seemed to contribute to its 'rapid terminal illness' and probably drove the final nails into its coffin. Punk is an essay in its own right, of course! And it is very much an anti-authority thing again, but ugly, repulsive, violent excesses and most definitely anti-hippy and anti-laid-back man and let it all hang out!
This reminds me of The Who. I don't think they were quite that antipolitical. They were apolitical, perhaps, but most definitely anti-authority, anti-old people, anti-establishment, anti-Tory, anti-stuffy old fusspots who ran the place, etc etc. They had very violent stage-shows and a violent, manic drummer.
Some Song Lyrics
It is useful to compare Lennon's 'Revolution' with Harrison's 'Within you Without you' because it illustrates what I have said before and above. It might actually be bettter to compare some Dylan stuff as well, or to bring in Donovan, the Who, String Band or Pete Seeger et al to illustrate other important viewpoints.
'Within you Without you' contains the following lines:
' people -
who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
The above is very similar to 'all you need is love' and carries a message that only love can really change the world because only it changes people in their hearts and also that cash and wealth and power and status are NOT the answer and do not lead to happiness, peace of mind, etc in the way people think. They just add to your problems rather than solve them. So there was a definite friction between what the 'peace and love' hippies were saying and what the Marxists were saying. It is clear and undeniable. That is what I meant by two polarised sub-groups or movements coexisting within one broader movement. Also in this song is the idea that only internal change within YOU can change you or your own world, NOT external changes, and, more importantly, not externally imposed changes in the structure of society as recommended by Marxists. That at least is one interpretation. It is certainly the interpretation I placed on it throughout the period we have been discussing.
you say you
want a revolution
This poem is clearly a tirade against a certain type of revolution which involves 'hate the rich, kill the rich' as I previously said. And Lennon wants no part of that. BUT he does want a revolution of free minds and free heads which is peaceful and a la Ginsberg and Leary --perhaps a slightly diluted version of what they were offering maybe. Lennon had obviously thought about both types of revolution on offer at the time and decided he wanted a soft blend of both rather than the raw extremes which were available. 'Shout: The True Story of the Beatles', by Philip Norman, on pages 294-5 is a brilliant condensed outline of the hippy phenomenon.
The structures of society are not changed through sitting and smoking dope --getting high. BUT nor are people *changed within* by changing the structures of society. So both are right in their critique of each other. AND the hippies seem more 'right' than the Marxists in the last analysis, because it does not matter *what* you change in society, if people are fundamentally unhappy in their hearts then no real change has been effected. And material gain is not happiness.' That is the hippy view and it is still mostly my own view. I think it is a sensible view. While hippies were dreamers and naive, so were Marxists -- but while the latter dreamed that their *actions* would change the world, the hippies dreamed their *inaction* could change the world. Maybe both were right and wrong in different ways, but to me the Marxists were more profoundly wrong and they would cause pain and suffering as well -- which the hippies did not cause.
The term hippy is just a convenient phrase --it has a blurred meaning perhaps. But I still think it has a quite distinct meaning compared with Marxist and I do believe both groups existed, dominated the movement, were not very compatible and DID generate a tension within the movement and even within individuals.
I do not accept Koestler's theme of 'yogi and commissar' which seems trite and simplistic -- a borrowed argument that rings hollow. In my view state and big business are/were antithetical as business was to make *certain people* rich period. State was at least aiming to benefit all, not just an elite. Business was never condoned by hippies. It was tolerated.
The 'sense of unity' theme dominating those times, or 'commonality' was a form of 'brotherhood/sisterhood' rather than unity. It was as if everyone sailed like 'boats in the same river' for a time and there was a unifying sense of experience and togetherness. Togetherness -- now there's a 60's buzz-word par excellence!
The nature of art also became a very important theme in the 60's. I think one of the main 'purposes' of all art is to portray and enter into that search for reintegration of self and world and to achieve a renewed balance. For many it is surely the sole purpose of their life. Art is thus v often both a portrayal of the search and the product of it, both at once.
I do not agree that it is impossible to regain entry into that 'Eden-world' of childhood. I think many in fact do achieve that in a sense and it is arguable that the Romantic poets did achieve that fairly successfully. I do not accept that children *only* dwell in the NOW. They also occasioanlly drift into reverie of past and future, but you are right that they are more centred in the now than anywhere else. Also, it is not entirely true that we adults cannot view directly or see the world as children do. I think again it is far more complex and some of the time we do see things directly. The distinction between childhood and adulthood is perhaps false. Maybe there are cultural filters on our perception through growing up which act against the direct view you mention. These are Wordsworth's conventions maybe.
The refined state of the poet is also in many ways akin to the rarified states of consciousness described by mystics and meditators of all types and in all cultures and epochs. There is a parallel I suppose in wanting to be in that pure state whether in nature, away from others and also in the 'child's state' of innocence and direct viewing. I think these are most certainly centrally important features of idealist and romantic thought. They also crop up in the recreational use of drugs as they were attempts, arguably, to reach back into that primordial state of 'pre-adultness' and direct viewing by using mind-altering substances. Drug use was mainly Opium in the last century, but as we know in the 'romantic hippy sixties' epoch it was chiefly marijuhana and LSD. I think there is a parallel again because hippies were like Wordsworth wishing to separate themselves off from a corrupted (as they saw it) world and to enter into a pure childlike state. I think the hippy parallels with Blake and Wordsworth are striking.
The 60's also dwelled upon such things as incense, (joss-sticks) Dali, Escher, Tarot, I Ching, astrology, Herman Hesse, meditation, Ouija boards, Brautigan, Mervyn Peake novels, political demonstrations and Sartre, to name a few more.