The Beatles and the Maharishi, 1967-68
©1996, Greg Panfile, http://www.soundsinteresting.com/earwig.htm, an earlier version first appeared in Beatlefan, Summer 1996
1968, the Beginning of the End for the Fab Four and much else. That traumatic year for those who lived through it (and those who didn't), includes an important nexus: the episode with the Maharishi that influenced so much Beatle output and is crucial to understanding the eventual dissolution of the Beatles. Coming far from coincidentally at exactly the same time as Brian Epstein's death, the Fabs' dalliance with the founder of TM dealt a hammer blow to the international pedestal they had occupied almost uninterruptedly for four years. They would never be exactly the same again....
Introduction: Seeds and Stems
Much of this story stems from happenstance: the British just happened to colonize India; the Beatles just happened to be British. A significant Indian cultural presence became part of British life, especially in the urban areas where immigrants from the Commonwealth were more likely to be found. The James Bond movie series formulized the use of exotic locations as a marketing device for popular films. All of the above combined somehow, some way to influence the plot of the second Beatle film, Help.... which exposed our Boys more intensely to Indian music, culture, and religion. All of which led to George Harrison's interest in Indian music and the sitar, apparent in the Beatles' sound as early as Rubber Soul.
Other random influences suggest themselves as contributing factors to our saga. Western Civilization, with its Holy Trinity of materialism, logic, and organized Christianity, is somewhat like a doughnut: it tastes good and you can live on it, but it is mentally "fattening," lacks vital nutrients and has an empty center. The innate human desire for mystical or spiritual experience beyond possessions, reasons, and rituals creates a vaccuum in such cultures that charlatans are all too glad to fill for a fee.
Add to this the effects of Western culture on potential "seekers of truth" operationally. Unsurprisingly, most Westerners approach the realm of mysticism with the very cultural tendencies that produced their motivating frustration: acquisitiveness, a demand for linear and coherent explanations, and a desire for your basic club/tribe schema of meetings, techniques, uniforms, secret handshakes, and the like.
The "spiritually ugly EuroAmerican" phenomenon predates the Sixties by at least seventy years or so. The Theosophists around the turn of the twentieth century, and the followers of Gurdjieff in the nineteen forties, formed garden-tea tribal associations of monied, mostly aged dabblers for whom mysticism was a suitable equivalent to mah-jongg. Thanks to these earnest but ineffectual efforts, there was already a small niche market for the Maharishi-type guru, a rudimentary infrastructure easily expandable to accommodate the Beatles and their followers when the time came.
Lastly, seekers of Beatle truth are probably familiar by now with the drug-influenced Rediscovery of the East led by the likes of Timothy Leary and other early acid-adopting intellectuals and academics. Mysticism having long ago been given a bad name and ritual hanging by the costumed bureaucrats of hierarchical Christianity, the major heads of the mid-nineteen sixties had to turn to India and China for analogies to the states of being they believed they sought or had experienced. John Lennon boards the train at this viewpoint, joining George Harrison on Revolver to produce the first "spiritual" Beatle songs: "Love You To" and "Tomorrow Never Knows."
Chronology: Mystical History Tour
Standard works on the Beatles provide lots of historical data on this period, and several released songs and enough commonly-available outtakes to choke a donkey (from the White Album period we're now discussing) shed light on some of the behind-the-scene happenings.
By 1967 George Harrison was seriously interested in all things Indian, especially gurus. "Within You Without You" is his only contribution to Sergeant Pepper, and follows "Love You To" as the second "Indian song" from this source. Add these songs to "Blue Jay Way" and "The Inner Light," and all of George's original songs for a span of almost two years are raga-based. The only icons, none like bikers, he offered to the cover collage of Pepper were gurus; it's no surprise that he plays a leading role in scene one of this adventure.
Patti Harrison, George's wife and later Eric Clapton's, is responsible for the Beatles even knowing that there was a Maharishi. In the late summer of 1967, she found out through a friend that Mr. Yogi was giving One Last Farewell Lecture Tour before taking a vow of silence. This opportunity of a lifetime, for a limited time only, lured the Fabs and femmes to a lecture in London on August 24, a Thursday. The Boys and their colorful entourage protruded from the customary bridge-club types like contusion-ridden opposed digits. Interestingly, Yoko Ono tailed along on this trip, alone, then hopped into the car with John and Cynthia.
The Beatles instantly and summarily offered themselves up as disciples at the end of this little talk. And so the Maha invited them to come to Wales the next day to learn the technique that will produce enlightenment in only a half hour per day. They agreed, and invited their manager who unfortunately had other plans for the weekend. So it's off to the train station and a big media sendoff... and the poignant scene described by Cynthia in the Compleat Beatles where she missed the train and knew her marriage is over. Friday, August 25, 1967: John Lennon, supreme candidate for higher knowledge that he was, yelled at his wife to run but left her behind. "This practice will alone bring one to the complete fulfillment of one's life."
On Saturday, August 26, the Beatles renounced drugs at a press conference in Wales, claiming to have "gone beyond it." One can only imagine the effect on the British press whose job it was to both document and exploit the Moptops' hijinks to maximize sales and profit. Having first deified these guys, then debunked them on the Jesus and drugs thing, then resurrected them in the gush over Sergeant Pepper, they now have to report that the Next Big Thing is no more drugs and the Maha has the answer to the meaning of life! It seems obvious that the press didn't like the Maha in the first place, for dozens of reasons: racism, xenophobia, religious chauvinism, healthy skepticism, common sense, disbelief in all things mystical, your reason here for a price. Now, just by covering the world's greatest entertainers, the demon bards of Fleet Street were compelled to give the little weasel a hell of a booster shot.
But this wilder weekend than the DC5 ever had wasn't over yet. The next day, Sunday August 27th, Brian Epstein died of (take your pick) accident, murder, or suicide. He'd been fading out for awhile, what with no more touring and the boys in control of studio efforts, so in some ways this just sealed what was already in progress. But the protection Brian had offered them, the image management, disappeared at a crucial moment: in the midst of a public religious conversion, a total endorsement of someone they had known for only four days. It all seems almost unbelievable now; only the 1960's, only the Beatles.
Beatle reaction to Brian's death was somewhat muted. My research and personal experience of TM and other self-hypnotic, trance-related practices is that they can act on certain people as emotional narcotics, dulling the natural experience and expression of feelings. Having spent their twenties totally insulated from the normal maturing experiences, the death of Epstein made the Beatles all the more needy of a surrogate father, and the Maha was more than willing to do the job. As so often happens when converts face everyday life-crises, the new dialectic was employed to position and interpret the event in a way that reinforced the conversion.
The visible result was further dedication by the Beatles to promulgating the Maha's theories and practices: "We want to learn the whole meditation thing properly so we can propagate it and sell the idea to everyone." And somewhat pathetically, the process of recovering from Brian's death (in both the personal and business senses) was dominated by meetings with the Maharishi, all under the glare of Fleet Street's low lights.
A month then passed with relatively little publicity.... On September 29, 1967, the Maha accompanied Lennon and Harrison to the David Frost show for a major, nationwide TV appearance. The two Beatles credited meditation with giving them more "energy," recommended it for everyone, described their personal experiences, and stressed an ecumenical, dogma-neutral approach to avoid conflict with established religions and practices.
A subsequent and telling escapade from this era was John Lennon's attempt to reconcile with his father, beginning another month later in October of 1967. It's certainly possible to associate this effort with Epstein's death, and perhaps a feeling of something missing in the Maharishi's ministrations. The effort failed, ending in a sex-related blowout between Alf and Cynthia in January 1968. Synchronous with these events were the Magical Mystery Tour TV fiasco and further deterioration in Lennon's marriage.
From Raga to Rishikesh
This seems an appropriate point at which to begin discussing the effects of TM and the Maharishi on the Beatles' musical output, both released and not. With a single exception, the material involved comes mostly from Lennon and Harrison, unsurprising given their personalities.
First off are the spiritually-related or at least Indian-related songs of the period are (from MMT) "Blue Jay Way" and "The Fool on the Hill." While "Blue Jay Way" has lyrics with a more personal, anecdotal angle than most of George's work in this period, its form nonetheless is highly evocative of Indian intervals and approaches to melody. "Fool on the Hill," putatively about the Maharishi, in many ways is more descriptive of its author than anyone else, more than perhaps was consciously intended. Let's also note that the British media's negative reaction to MMT was sprinkled with barbs against the Maha, ascribing the artistic failure to his "brainwashing."
Following MMT, two more songs with spiritual themes came forth in early 1968: "The Inner Light" and "Across the Universe." By now fans of George Harrison could well have begun to despair of his ever writing a "normal," that is non-raga, song again. All too visible here is George's tendency to preachily regurgitate undigested Great Quotes From Gurus, one of the banes of his later solo career. And while there might be some merit, at least for those interested in such things, in analyzing George's lyrics for different Hindu influences and literary references and so forth, that's beyond the scope and inclination of this writer, who was exposed to Lucky's speech in Waiting for Godot at an early age and thus rendered incapable such things. As Puncher and Wattmann so aptly put it, "ga-ga-ga-ga." Or as Omar Khayyam put it, discussing spirituality: "You cannot fathom it by research."
The fate of "Across the Universe" is extremely interesting. The compositional quality, the lyric, and at least one pre-Spector final mix (heard on Yellow Dog's Unsurpassed Masters volume 4) produce an excellent song, certainly one of the half-dozen best Beatle alternate versions of any song. This particular mix rings better to my ear than either the Anthology or Past Masters versions. But the song was fated to have a strange release fate difficult to explain; substituted for "The Inner Light" as the B-side to "Lady Madonna," it might have received considerable airplay and could even have outcharted Paul's contribution. As such, it would have functioned as an extremely powerful anthem/recruitment theme for the Maha's movement, much as "Give Peace A Chance" did for the antiwar movement or "Power To The People" did for Seventies radicals.
In his Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn explains this seemingly strange choice as Lennon holding back the song for inclusion on the famous Our World ecology album, and in deference to "The Inner Light's" high quality. While somewhat credible, this does have the aroma of one of those very hard to believe official, corporate, and therefore duplicitous explanations.
The key may be in those three fatal words of the chorus: "Jai guru deva." This little phrase is the Maha's version of in-group salutations such as "praise the lord," "peace," "power to the people," that kind of stuff; it's OUR little phrase, it's how WE greet each other. It also has the "Amen" function, appearing as the last text in the Maha's publications of the time. The literal translation is "Hail Master Lord," intended as a tribute to the Maha's teacher, sort of carrying the line along.
This phrase, and the song's clear identification with the Maha in Lennon's mind, could be what caused him to "hold back" the song at this point. Lennon had learned by now from the Jesus-and-popularity flap that the public may get mad at you, but their attention span is short and you can win them back with just one good record. Songs, however, are another matter; you have to live with them forever, and the last thing you want is ones that come back to haunt you. Lennon at this point may even have felt he had a bargaining chip of some sort in his position as student jockeying for secrets, prominence, and so forth.
While this song is good art and articulate self-expression, the central problem of didactic "spiritual" music remains: that is, it just doesn't work. Look at the track record, for example, in Europe alone. Beautiful Gregorian chants with unarguably good advice didn't keep people from slaughtering one another left and right, for hundreds of years, presumably over minor doctrinal differences. The Germans, after centuries of nearly unopposed exposure to the Christian message embodied in most of the works of great musicians like Bach and Beethoven, still embraced Hitler and are murdering foreigners almost literally even as we speak. Never mind how much good so-called spiritual music seems to have done in India itself.... The disease of hypocrisy doesn't seem to respect geographic or sectarian borders.
Indeed, the reverse seems to be more truthful; the effects of music can at least at times be profoundly nonspiritual -- and this coming from a musician. For example, both the Grateful Dead and the Mamas and Papas experimented with live sets that included a gradual increase in tempo from song to song. They found that the resultant rising emotional pitch always brought crowds to a near-riot state, regardless of the lyrical message that accompanied the music. And a recent scientific study found that people exposed to Christmas carols, then placed in mock-trial jury settings, handed out twice the amount of punishment compared to people who didn't listen to the music. Add this evidence to the many anecdotes about violence at early Beatles gigs and concerts and one senses that something dark and primal can and does operate here. Altamont, anyone?
Kommonwealth Karma Kamp
Returning to our story, let's also note that somewhere in here George and Paul supposedly have flown to Sweden to dissuade the Maha from entering into negotiations to produce films including his committed Fab disciples. Several things stand out: the Maha as an aggressive businessman, the Fabs not making a full commitment (although perhaps contractual agreements enter into this); and that early up-the-ante vow of silence seems to have disappeared already.
Next comes to the Trip to Rishikesh of February 1968. The Beautiful People sing Hare Krishna at Butlin's Holiday Camp, and matters reach a climax on several levels. Besides the Four and female companions, participants include Donovan, Mia Farrow, her sister Prudence, and Mike Love of the Beach Boys.
As far as can be determined from published accounts, things began well enough, with all four Beatles seemingly committed to the enterprise (although leadership certainly came from Lennon and Harrison, the foremost writers of related musical pieces). Outtakes like "What We Did On Our Meditation Course,Happy Birthday Michael Love," and "Spiritual Regeneration" (available on bootlegs from Chapter One and others) convey equal amounts of pretension and silliness, behaviors both childish and childlike.
The atmosphere seems to match that of your garden-variety, average-intensity cult; perhaps slightly weirder than your typical Christian church, decidedly less strange than the Manson family, Jonestown, or the Branch Davidians. The daily routine begins with some sleep-deprivation, an early wakeup call to start meditation. The diet is strictly vegetarian, and students are required to participate in humbling chores such as latrine duty. The participants affect a hip variant on local dress, and engage in contests to see who can meditate the longest. There's also a lot of rivalry and infighting for closeness to the master, revelation of secrets and the like. Hmmm, maybe it isn't any weirder than your typical Christian church....
At some point, Mia Farrow's sister Prudence lapsed into something like meditation-induced autism (another almost inevitable result of offering a trance-inducing exercise to all comers), and was brought out from her seclusion by John and the others singing the tune that bears her name. When one technique is prescribed for everyone, such cases are bound to occur... bootleg listeners will recall how Lennon tells the story over the coda of the widely available "Dear Prudence" demo tape. With not a hell of a lot else to do, the Beatles wrote a lot of songs, basically most of the White Album, during this period.
The bloom quickly faded from this paper rose, and Beatles started peeling away one by one. Ringo's earthy common sense and taste in food took him off the train first, and Paul and Jane Asher followed soon thereafter. A general consensus began to emerge that the Beatles were being had by a sophisticated businessman, and rumors of sexual exploitation of students started to circulate. John Lennon and Magic Alex Mardas conspired to catch the Maharishi in the act, and did so at least to their own satisfaction. A sudden and bitter parting ("You're so cosmic, figure it out yourself!") led to a tense journey back to civilization, and the Beatles' involvement with the Maha ended utterly, as abruptly as it began.
During this time, Lennon cut himself off more and more from Cynthia and corresponded extensively with Yoko Ono. Upon his arrival home, he sent Cyn off on holiday, invited Yoko over to make Two Virgins, and that brings us back to the little town of London, England. And we enter the Apple Era, one about as well documented as any in the Beatles' career and beyond our current scope. You know how THAT turned out: about as well as the Maharishi adventure.
Scraping the Pipe for One Last Hit
Certainly in some sense these are events that changed the world, and remember you read it here first. For example, the Beatles started the whole phenomenon of "raga rock" which produced at least a dozen Top Forty hits with either acoustic or Danelectro/electric sitar. I'm talking about the Traffic's "Paper Sun," the Stones' "Mother's Little Helper" and "Paint It Black," the Boxtops' "Cry Like A Baby," B. J. Thomas's "Hooked on a Feeling," Joe South's "Games People Play," and the like.
Rock stars coming out for gurus became six for a nickel. Let's see, John McLaughlin had one, Santana another, Pete Townshend I think a third, with the added frill of a name change here and there; we've already mentioned Mick, Mike, Donovan, and let's not leave out a couple of Doors in there. The Beach Boys, at least the least talented, stuck publicly with TM, and later cut a record at the Maharishi's college.
"Across the Universe," as produced during this period, was never released on a Beatle record. It came out, including bird calls and positioned more in the realm of pantheism, on the ecology album but only in late 1969, nearly two years after the composition and recording, and relatively buried outside the Beatles realm of albums, singles, and EPs. And, tellingly, long after the public's short memory could attach it to the Maha period.
The Maha himself went on to many things. Even after the Boys departed, he produced at least one book documenting their period of advocacy and that of the other prominent entertainers. The general cachet of having been guru to the Beatles paid off steadily in the Seventies. He built the aforementioned university to present his teachings in a Western academic setting; connected with New Ageish elements in the scientific community to undertake and publish studies to support his practices; advertised that a group of meditators could bring world peace; allowed to circulate claims that advanced practitioners could levitate; and as recently as 1991 offered American cities freedom from violent crime if they would only fund his new, foolproof program. Cost: ten cents per person per diem. That's right, just pennies a day! A candidate for the Natural Law party (for the Maha now claims to have exceeded Einstein and unified all physical and spiritual knowledge into one Field Theory) ran for president in November 1992, and they're back again this year.
Western awareness of Eastern spirituality and mysticism reached widespread fad status, spurred on in part by the rockers who took the same route the Beatles did with the costumes, the press releases, the gurus and so forth. Among the counterculture for most of the seventies it was impossible to swing a dead cat without hitting an I Ching, someone in the lotus position, a Carlos Castenada novel, or the like. And let's not forget vegetarianism, organic food, and Nehru jackets. More on that later....
The most extreme cult of the era, closely associated with the Beatle phenomenon, and winner of our Hippie Hitler award is the Manson family (note the recurring father figure theme here), who interpreted the White Album in an extremely unique fashion. Someone recently asked me, in all seriousness, if the song "Helter Skelter" was based on the Manson family story. Well I just had to laugh.... Which brings us back to the most musical aspect of Maha fallout, the collection of songs entitled The Beatles and the associated demos, outtakes, and giveaways of the time. Note that the British press absolutely roasted the Beatles for the entire affair, and combined with their own embarassment and disappointment and the MMT debacle, seriously increased the pressure on the group to produce something good.
No doubt the Beatles produced some great music during this time, and some (Albert Goldman is a good example) have attempted to credit the influence of the Maharishi for its quality. I for one have serious problems with this conclusion. There is no evidence to support that the music written during the Maha/meditation period is any better than that produced while "doing" Scotch and Coke (A Hard Day's Night), marijuana (Rubber Soul and Band on the Run), LSD (Sergeant Pepper), or primal therapy (John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band). I will grant, however, that it seems a more effective palliative for musicians than radical politics (Sometime in New York City) or Hare Krishna (Living in the Material World). While the Maharishi may have influenced the Beatles to sober up and take a vacation, and those two actions may have positively influenced the quality of their songs, the same would have most likely been true had the Boys gone to an actual Butlin's innocuous holiday camp and/or undergone a twelve-step program.
Indeed, separation and disillusionment re the Maharishi may have had a more beneficial influence on the Boys than did their short-lived affair. For the rest of his Beatle career George doesn't produce any more raga songs, and reaches the peak of his compositional skills with his contributions to the White Album and Abbey Road, along with the unrecorded but already composed All Things Must Pass material scattered throughout the Get Back sessions.
Lennon, too, wrote some good things in Rishikesh, but some good things afterwards as well, often under the influence of his own vitriol against his former master. "Jealous Guy" is a better lyric than "Child of Nature," and "Sexy Sadie" is one of the best overall White Album cuts. There's a certain midtempo passivity and sameness to some of John's compositions from this time period, especially in the demo versions before studio overlays and George Martin's skills helped add differentiation.
John's bitterness, as seen in the unavailable original version of "Sexy Sadie" as well as "Serve Yourself" and "Happy Rishikesh Song," provides us with a valuable clue as to what was wrong with the whole enterprise in the first place. Having awakened to a major infestation of fleas, he heaps musical blame on the dog with which he freely chose to sleep. Ignored are the the motivations that led him to sleep with that dog in the first place: desire for personal power, greed for secrets, wanting to be the Pop Star Who Found Truth, need for a father, and similar all too human characteristics that so many of us share in one form or another, to this extent or that. John Lennon showed us all too clearly where seeking the Next Big Thing based on the superficial assessments we all tend to make can lead: back to drinking and drugs, then to Yoko and Shock Art, followed by Primal Therapy, radical politics, "Mind Games" -- what? Nobody's listening anymore? Wonder why....
The improvement, if any, in the Beatles' output during the meditation period was more quantitative than qualitative. Scattered among the brilliant moments that certainly characterize the White Album is a great deal of filler, and the average Beatle fan picked at random could probably come up with a list of the 14 best songs and put together one killer album (omitting for example both versions of "Honey Pie," "Revolution 9," "Rocky Raccoon," "Why Don't We Do It in the Road," ... your choice goes here). The acoustic version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was clearly superior, but omitted to strengthen the record on the uptempo side because of so much acoustic, midtempo material and filler. Nonetheless George Harrison has his strongest showing to date, and his "Not Guilty" in any of the many available outtake mixes is better than several of the released cuts.
Closing Rap: GIMME... Some Truth?
The conventional views of this period, while certainly entertaining and informative, don't quite get there in terms of giving useful guidelines for evaluating the entire fiasco. The underlying, usually unstated assumption of most Beatle authors seems to be that there is no real mystical path, or at least none that is accessible or identifiable to normal people in our present-day culture. The overt manifestation of this attitude is the nearly all-pervasive conclusion that the Maharishi had to be a fraud simply because all mystics are frauds. This theme has two variations: in one, the Maharishi is the fraud and the Fabs his innocent victims; in the other, both parties are at fault, kind of a mutual dysfunctional codependency or whatever the proper jargon is in the Dweeb Decade.
The other dominant viewpoint positions the TM movement somewhere between conventional religion and twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. That is, the general effects on the Beatles are seen as positive (freedom from drugs, prolific songwriting) and the Fabs are faulted totally for not following the Maharishi who is the good guy. Again there is no substantive discussion of mysticism per se.
The authors of standard works are hampered, as are we all, by the lack of anything remotely resembling a respectable context and vocabulary for discussing mysticism within the present culture. It's like trying to discuss automobiles without concepts like miles per gallon, time to go from 0 to 60 MPH, frequency of repair, and so forth. We end up debating and discussing externals, superficialities irrelevant to the vehicle's ability to perform its intended function: size, shape of hood ornament, presence or absence of whitewalls, the esthetics of engine noise, and the like. That's why you hear so many people approach spirituality with the same attitude of consumers choosing a health club: what is the diet, how do they dress, how often are the meetings, do you like the main technique, and so on.
In some ways the situation is even worse than that, because (like the Beatles) we bring to the discussion the greed, impatience, and desire for predictability mentioned earlier. Carrying the analogy further, it is as if we talk about cars with the vocabulary used for understanding and evaluating donkeys. We then fault automobiles for not having tails, or favor those that do, demand that cars consume oats rather than gasoline, and so on. With no notion of what real progress in a mystical activity might be like, we are reduced to talking about how much energy we have, how at home we feel with the other people, and similarly subjective and mystically shallow views more appropriate to a discussion of soft drinks.
It's interesting to consider the view of all this held for example by your average Indian, whose cultural background is much more acclimated to these phenomena; a person as likely to follow the Maharishi as your average American would be to purchase snake oil from a carny pitchman. Some in Indian culture considered the bilking of Western youth as the Revenge Of The Colonized -- a payback, karmic if you will, for the oppression they endured at the hands of Western imperialism. If you're interested, the book Karma Cola by Gita Mehta is a hilariously insightful view of how all this appeared from the other side of the world.
The Beatles, with their isolation from everyday life, riches, and incredible egos were in many ways less likely to be able to identify and function in a true mystical situation than your average gas station attendant. Everything I've ever read about mysticism, at least anything remotely worthy of any respect, stresses notions like unselfishness, humility, patience, and similar qualities not as virtues in themselves but as means to an end. While it's easy to fool oneself into a false sense of humility or whatever, I'm sure that being surrounded by sycophants, available sex partners, ripoff artists and the like makes any effort at sincerity in any form that much more difficult. Developing mystical perception in such surroundings seems like trying to make a silk ear out of a sow's purse.
Which is not to say that this subject cannot be approached reasonably and intelligently. For example, John Grant (in his book Travels in the Unknown East) lists a set of qualifications that are supposedly those of a true mystical teacher, and it seems to me that they are at least worthy of consideration and shed some light on most people's instinctive reaction to characters like the Maharishi. For example, Grant states that the real gnostic/instructor has no physical relations or familiarity with students; supports himself by his own labor; speaks the local country's language perfectly without an accent; generally wears the normal clothes of the culture; eats any wholesome food of the locality where he dwells; and neither performs nor requires chants, repetitions, or the like. It would certainly be unwise to swallow this material whole on anyone's sayso, but all of those points are worth pondering. And none of them reflect very well on the Maharishi or any of the people-charming professional guru types that littered the Seventies countercultural landscape and are still with us today. Quite a number of generally conventional Christian leaders don't measure up to them, either, come to think of it, but at least they don't claim to be mystics.
As one example of point-pondering, relevant because of Paul McCartney's prominence and advocacy, consider vegetarianism. Matters of health, taste, and preference aside, is such behavior of mystical significance, does it convey some sort of spiritual merit? Or does the instinctively wholesome behavior of indigenous, non-Western peoples such as the Inuit (Eskimos), Polynesians, desert Arabs, or Plains Indians reflect the will of the divine? Are these peoples spiritually inferior because they cannot live in their native environment without consuming meat and fish? Consider that in arid prairie/grassland ecologies as just one example, ruminant protein is the most harmonious way to feed humans (witness the impending collapse of the American attempt to irrigate and farm the Great Plains). And aren't pop stars and other self-righteous, affluent Eurotypes totally dependent on things like migrant labor, modern transportation and distribution systems, and similar tainted mechanisms to achieve their pure state? One is tempted to say that on the mystical plane, what's eating you is a lot more relevant than what you eat. As my next album will say: "Shut up about food, and drive your f**king car!"
Ah, humanity. What keeps us from the knowledge of truth isn't food, it's not the lack of a technique, or having the wrong costume, or any of that irrelevant crap. It's the person we greet in the mirror each morning, and that's just as much the case for John-Paul-George-and-Ringo as it is for you and me. If you realize this, you are already a mystic, and for your first miracle: figure out what to do next, because I certainly have no idea what you should do! As the great jester-sage Mulla Nasrudin puts it, "Truth is something which I never speak." Amen to that, brother, and jai guru dev to you all.
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