The New Age Journal, which grew out of a feud at the East West Journal here about a year ago, and was started by Robert Hargrove who used to be an old honcho in the Muchio Kushi, Erewhon, East West Journal and East West Foundation Empire, is starting to come out with some interesting New Age journalism. I was at the office the other day and found out that Hargrove no longer runs the thing, instead a married couple named the Utnes, that weren’t there. The whole staff went into the EST training program a few months ago, which is something of a rage about, since the training seems to cut through boundaries of age and class that haven’t been broken down by any of the other integrating philosophies except maybe TM, which has gone so far as the front of TIME, which is probably about the farthest an alternative anything can go before it starts being something else. EST stands for Erhard Seminars Training, and they are run by the blue-eyed beauty Werner Erhard and his assistants, and are huge T-group type things where everyone learns to just be. Werner Erhard is not the guy’s real name. In the article-interview in the New Age Journal, he says, “It’s all a con . . . you can’t avoid it,” which includes himself, Werner Erhard (alias), who means that everything in your whole life is a con including the notion that you are an integral, separate human being who determines his whole life. For two hundred and fifty dollars, EST will con you out of believing that, and con you back into it. There is a great deal that I don’t know about it, and many people, all kinds of people, think that the training has brought about profound changes in their lives. (Something like the realization: Who the hell else would I be being?)
There are so many different kinds of spiritual trips coming down these days that it is helpful to take a look, what I was getting towards all along, at what the Journal has to say, because it lends a critical note to some of its articles. If you have ever read the East West Journal, you might have noticed that according to that magazine, every single spiritual trip is far out, and all aspects of every spiritual scene are fantastic, full of righteous, white-light types. It gets to be monotonous after a while, and, as a veteran of a few, I can safely say that it just isn’t true. Monotonous, also, are the regular debunking skeptical kinds of articles you find about gurus in NEWSWEEK, etc. The Journal leaves it up to you.
The editorial in a recent issue injects some down right scary ideas into you. For example, in Germany during the twenties, when everything was getting ready for Hitler, “there was widespread fascination with the occult and a higher rate of Indian gurus per capital than even in the U.S. today.” The editor even asks if maybe there is no New Age at all, that maybe there is no such thing as planetary consciousness raising, and the whole bit. There are a lot of people who would hate to believe that, myself included. I would even go so far as to say we have very little choice about the New Age. In fact, it’s probably here. But we aren’t aware of it yet.
You wonder in this city, the youth center of the East, the San Francisco of the East, what the hell is going on. I have a friend who is a Californian futurologist. He showed me a book by William Irwin Thompson called the Edge of History, written about four years ago, which seems to really describe what it is that is the center of the Future, at least the future of the West. People, he says, are involved in the Los Angelization of the world. People are already living in the future, that is the way this country is made, on the fulfillment of fantasies, on the concretization of fantasy. Disneyland is a cathedral to fantasy. Some people are living in white and potted-plant environments, living spiritual, ecological lives, being vegetarian, clean, organic, etc., and trying to get back to the earth, resolve their karma, all of that. The big question, to me right now, is this life style, the entire New Age business, another concrete fantasy? You prod people in our generation and they tell you the future is worse than anything you can imagine. And it may very well be worse than that. I have too many friends who have had bad dreams about hungry people scavenging, bombs, poison, weapons, deep paranoia, all sorts of electronic controls on our lives, zap-guns, 1984. I have even had an eerie feeling that I am in the future sitting in the back of a long tech-white room, watching a guru whose voice was amplified for my benefit through two big speakers as he went through a description of ego, and listening to the same lecture again three hours later, guru absent, brought to us through the miracle of eight-track cassette.
In November Boston is pitch black, full of decadent types, a lot of unemployed in high heels and fatigues, there is much local political action in areas like rent control, and ever-expanding co-op movement, anarchists all over the place, and bright-white, slick. You can buy all sorts of Tibetan religious objects here if you like, have enormous potted plants in your city loft, take any kind of spiritual, physical, occult, or religious training you can imagine, you can read newspapers of feminism, radical therapy, several religious movements, gay newspapers, magazines on healing, The New Age, the new skeptical journalism. You can be a law student, a ‘hip retailer,’ a prostitute, a monk. Or all of them at once. I have a pair of black boots with four inch heels, and I have my Earth Shoes. It seems some things have reached their peak, and gone around the bend. That is what is going on in the end of 1975, of the New Age.