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The Great Awakenings

The Essence of Contemporary American Religion

Part Forty-Two


By Shlomo Phillips © 1989
(most recent update March 29, 2015)

A New Age The "dawning of the Age of Aquarius" produced an abundance of spiritual fruit. Some traditional, some new. This awakening promised the dawning of a new age of light and peace against the backdrop of the Vietnam "police action" and the subsequent apathy of the 1970's and 80's.

Guru Maharaji

The Divine Light Mission (DLM) of the youthful Guru Prem Pal Singh Rawat (aka Guru Maharaj Ji, born December 10,1957) was influential for a while. I attended many of their darshans or meetings in the mid to late seventies. This group, like the Hare Krishna Movement, espoused a bhakti (devotion) based philosophy. Unlike ISKCON that focussed on Krishna as the Supreme Person of Godhead, this devotion was directed exclusively to the Guru rather than to him as a representative of God. For his followers, Guru Maharaji was God incarnate, not just His representative. The DLM stressed the importance of personal realization and devotion to Guru Maharaji over ritual and beliefs. Realization was not something handed down from the past, it was NOW, in this moment, close your eyes and see It! Taste It! Through it's yoga techniques I saw the 'divine light' and tasted the 'celestial nectar' they claimed.

The ad campaign that quickly established DLM throughout the West was both ingenious and simple, as was appropriate for a master of the Sanatan Dharma (universal truth: Hinduism). They plastered a single question wherever they could, on sign posts, health food store boards, car windshields, news papers... everywhere. The question: Who is Guru Maharaji? Although his mother later ousted him from the leadership of India's Divine Light Mission due to alleged sexual and financial misconduct ("power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely"), the Maharaji continues to teach his message of universal love and light.

Available space forbids an adequate discussion of the techniques employed to this end, but the movement, while it lasted, was certainly exhilarating (note 45).

You Say You Want A Revolution?
You Better Free Your Mind Instead!

Revolution - The Beatles

Among other teachers that arose during this period was the famous Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his Transcendental Meditation movement. This movement was very popular among celebrities especially for a while. Also popular was the Daimoku trend ("Namu Myoho Renge Kyo") of Nichiren Buddhism and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Swami Muktananda and his Siddha Yoga foundation, Swami Brahmananda Mishra of the Yoga Institutes, the miracle worker Sathya Sai Baba (November 23, 1926 - April 24, 2011), and so many other Eastern masters and teachers were active in the West during this period. Their influences continue to reverberate. The sixties and seventies were a time when spiritual masters, both real and fraudulent, were easily found. Their world views deeply impacted us all directly or indirectly as Eastern conceptions unified and entered the Western Paradigm. The New Age beliefs did not replaced Judaism and Christianity, but they did come to exist along side them as equals in the mind of many people. In many ways they surpassed the traditional beliefs among the young. These young people are now the adults.

We don't have the space here to discuss all of the significant groups and teachers of this period but there were many groups that impacted this Awakening and what followed it. These include the highly eclectic Freedom of Speech Movement, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Weathermen Underground, the Students for a Democratic Society, the Berkeley Free Church (and the related free movements such as free clinics, free food pantries, etc.). The Black Panther Party, the Venceremos, the Zen Center of San Francisco, the Christian World Liberation Movement, the Women's Movement (NOW), the LGBT equal rights movements (including the Universal, the Wiccan resurgence (note 46), Anton Szandor LaVey's Church of Satan, the OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis), the various Human Potential movements (note 47), Synanon, Esalen, the various 12 Step belief systems, Jesus People USA -- which to both my surprise and disappointment evolved into a traditional Christian ministry (note 48), Jews For Jesus -- i.e. non-observant Jews who sought to mislead the Christian world through the impossible dream of "Jewish Christianity" -- this Christian "ministry" was/is aptly countered by Jews for Judaism, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement, the Charismatic Protestant Churches, The Children of God (now known as the Family International (note 49), Campus Crusade For Christ, Scientology, Stephen Gaskin's "The Farm," the Family of Perpetual Love (not to mention the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence!), the Rainbow Gatherings, Burning Man, the diverse New Age spiritualities, etc. etc. Through groups and events like these, as well as the direct experiences born through drug use, especially LSD and peyote, many people "expanded their consciousness" and tasted the diversity and potentiality of religious and personal realization as never before. Most serious seekers experienced many of these groups, blending their accumulated personal realizations and merging under the greater umbrella of New Age Spirituality and Globalism. The emerging consciousness rejected all authority figures, all established traditions... Truth became an inwardly revealed personal revelation in which there was neither truth nor falsehood, legitimate or fraudulent: bite you finger nails as you are eating the guru alive! as Guru Ramdas explained in Be Here Now!. People "went with the flow" and followed their "inner voice." As the late Robin Williams exclaimed, "Reality? What a concept!"

Most of the people who directly experienced the various social and spiritual alternatives being offered during this period eventually either returned to the more traditional views and lifestyles, often maintaining an essential Universalist belief system ("I'm OK, you're OK") or they continue to deepen their experiences into these beliefs and typically incorporate an anarchistic paradigm in all areas of their lives, living on the fringes of society. By the mid to late seventies this Awakening was clearly over. This period is best considered a minor awakening in my opinion. At the time we expected much more, but our dream proved to be hollow. The influences of this period remains and continues to spread however. by the nineties the flame had become little more than a smoldering ember. What followed the 1970's was a direct response to these experiences for good and ill.

The End of Innocence

As the late seventies gave way to eighties and nineties, the vast majority of citizens drifted back into quiet structured society. Everyone had been fundamentally altered by this period of seeking enlightenment, whether people had actively taken part in it or not. Now it was as though the nation was collectively exhausted from its search for something beyond apparent reality. The Secular Sciences and Secular Humanism had won the paradigm war. Religion came to be viewed as nothing but superstition, spirituality was an opiate and cop-out. Humans were nothing but animals. As such the ME generation was born.

Greed became the accepted social norm. Outward appearance replaced inward goodness, material possessions replaced spiritual realizations and love. The war in Vietnam was over but there was no peace. As this trend developed the economy began to crumble. It could not handle the greed of the new consumerism. With both parents working full time and children becoming optional through the Roe-V-Wade decision that legalized infanticide in 1973, the nation's children who survived birth were largely left to the Secular Humanist school systems to raise. Parents were too busy to be bothered with child rearing. This generation of children is now coming into its own and we are witness the results of this absentee parenting.

As the economy became more uncertain and the political winds blew occasional hints that things were not as they appeared, hopes were fading. Without a spiritual center people were being devastated. Apathy began replacing greed as the new norm. Drugs like Meth became epidemic. Mellow Marijuana was being bred into a serious drug that only increased the apathy. Honey oil and other forms were increasing and minds and bodies were being destroyed. With HIV Free Love became anything but, and meaningful human interaction was becoming unknown to many many people. The world was becoming a cold and lonely place without meaning. Without God in their lives people seemingly suffer and die without purpose or meaning. But the Awakening flame continued to flicker and some people held on..

The religion of Secular Humanism had won and become the dominant belief system throughout the non-Islamic world. The priesthood of the nation were now the "nerds" and "geeks" wearing white lab coats and muttering mysterious words like "gigabytes" and speaking of a mystical reality in "cyberspace." Most Americans were content to abide within this undemanding paradigm amazed by the new shiny technologies as their ancestors had been awed by the powers of the Shaman and fakirs. Relativity and political correctness had become the gauge of ethics and morality. The belief in God as historically embraced was dying on the vine and devout Christians were being recast as religious fanatics.

Through the greed-based egocentric experiences and realizations of the 1980's through 2001 the nation and planet was forever changed in tangible ways. Impersonal technology has replaced the Personal God for most Americans, whether they wish to acknowledge this or not. Today Christianity is no longer the largest nor most influential religious system in the post Judeo-Christian United States.

Throughout this period Islam was rising fast everywhere, including in the US. By the mid-1990's it was clear that Islam was the religious heir apparent for the world, other than Secular Humanism.

The nation of Israel was politically solid, and yet frequently under attack. It continued working to secure itself as the Jewish homeland while maintaining equality for all under incomprehensible near global condemnation. The United States mainly stood firmly with Israel during these years. Israeli Jews were as divided and largely non-Observant as Christians in the US. The secular population wanted little if anything to do with Torah other than essential holiday observances. The rift between the Observant and non-observant portions of the society was growing. Meanwhile the USSR, which was formally dismantled on December 26, 1991, China, and the United States of America were each actively discounting religious faith and becoming more and more similar to the Nazi regime of Germany as those few who were still protesting during this period frequently pointed out.

The People's Republic of China, already the world's real economic and military super power, was quietly developing its plans to topple the US house of cards, something that seems imminent as of this update (March 2015). U.S. independence and its Constitution is now a myth that few belief in. Most Americans are too dependant on the lower prices China offers through its slave based economy to support real capitalism. Through their buying choices Americans brought their own economy to its knees, bowing to China by transferring ever larger percentages of its wealth to the totalitarian governments.

Certain Islamic leaders during this period were actively developing plans for the establishment of a global caliphate. Many Muslims believe that Imam Mahdi (who, along with Isa/Jesus will lead the Muslims to global conquest according to their prophecies) will soon arise and lead a united Islamic government that will genocide the Jews and vanquish the infidels (like the Americans). Likewise Iran was feverishly working to secure nuclear weapons with which to destroy Israel and the infidel West. In the eighties and nineties most Americans were focussing on material superficialities and/or survival in the fluctuating economy and political realities, rather than paying attention to this rising global threat. Most were unaware of the impending storm.

A New World Order was coming. But according to whose vision? The age of innocence was fast ending and the Americans were clearly not prepared.

John Lennon: Imagine

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