This letter was forwarded to us by Moira Crone, who wrote about the New Age in our February, 1976 issue. David Manning is the author of She Would Have Been a Taxi Dancer, But He Couldn’t Hail a Cab, a Loom Press Book. He lives in Durham.
Just read your thing in the WDBS Program Guide as reprinted from the Chapel Hill Sun which I suppose actually started out as some sort of letter but whatever it is I liked it. Anyway you asked a question and suddenly the whole process seemed like a verbal ping pong game being played on a table stretched from Boston to Chapel Hill, with maybe Washington to New York as the net.
Yeah, I worry about this New Age concrete fantasy thing too. I wretch at visions of a new medical show called “The Guru Healer” and recoil in horror at the thought of millions of earth shoe sandaled tourists wearing rose colored sunglasses crowding the shores of the sea of consciousness while they casually munch organic potato chips; but it’s all just reaction.
Sometimes, for me anyway, its better to look from rather than at the stars. From there the perspective is different. America is just a place that by its nature (excuse the word) turns everything into a concrete fantasy, whether it’s Snow White, the peace movement or the New Age. It’s a place where things tend to be a lot more real before they become “reality.”
For all its worth, I believe Western Civilization will end, soon. It will mold itself into some sort of self-perpetuating plastic totally removed from either life or death. As its institutions struggle to survive for reasons unrelated to nature, humanity, and the creative force all the things we fear the most seem not only possible but quite probable.
But I also believe the New Age will, or has, come. (I hate to use the word because already it’s been marketed into meaninglessness — think about the progression of Village Voice to Rolling Stone to East West Journal to New Age Journal). I believe in it because I believed in it before I read about it in Newsweek, or metaphorically, before consciousness was a psychological adjustment tool, peace and love a cliche, civil rights a “movement” and Flash Gordon a TV show.
Sure, Kelloggs will probably start shooting puffed sunflower seeds out of Battle Creek cannons onto the Breakfast tables of America, loaded with enough preservatives to petrify a jellyfish, but that’s still no reason to throw your sunflower seeds away. (Actually sunflower seeds might not be the best example to use, I don’t even like the damn things, at least not for eating — but they are pretty good for growing more sunflowers with, for whatever that’s worth. On that thought I’ll just leave this raving and the end of the parenthesis and send back the ping pong ball.
I am renewing my subscription, because I can always look forward to your clear and honest comments. I keep reading the Sun, because I want to know what younger men and women are thinking and saying. Too many of them “meditate,” but don’t know how to be quiet. But in spite of the many little self-appointed prophets, I am happy with the general direction they are taking.
One subject in which you seem to be very interested keeps puzzling me, and that is yours and your wife’s interest in ESP and the afterlife. I too, like David Searles — whose article I appreciated very much — have an unhappy love affair with modern science and higher mathematics because I am finding there an inadequate connection with modern religious thinking. I also believe that there are more things between heaven and earth than we can dream of, but to search for them scientifically with computers and theories of probability seems to me a contradiction in itself. Even though we know that time and space are relative, we still “prove” it with standard measurements. Or if you want to express it differently: this is not the way to get out of Karma. And I am afraid that the intensive search for proof of an afterlife is motivated by the exaggerated valuation of life and the prevalent fear of death. (My own faith is that God will take care of me, that I will be with the One, as I am now in this life, but how and what is hidden to me, because this individual, in which body and soul are one, will be no more, its puny individuality will pass, as the “grass that withers.”)
Still, I have to remember that I am 77 years old, and will have to face the end sooner rather than later.
In the meantime I am enjoying life and the “Sun.”
This is a double issue, to carry you through the steamy bicentennial summer and give us time off for our own flag-waving: a promotional campaign to increase circulation and advertising this fall.
Sorry it’s late. Score one for engine trouble (see the story on Swami Muktananda). One for the heat. We think it’s worth the wait.
Our September issue will be about Education. About the first of the month.